History of Bardwell Lake

Active cooperation built Bardwell Lake. The idea for the lake was first conceived by the people living in the area; who foresaw the time when Bardwell Lake would be essential for the growth and welfare of this part of Texas. Because of their efforts Congress approved an act on March 31, 1960, authorizing construction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Construction began in September 1963 with impoundment beginning in November 1965. The total construction cost was $12,630,000.

Built to provide flood control and water conservation, Bardwell Lake and Dam controls runoff from 178 square miles of drainage area. At conservation level the lake is 5.4 miles long, 1.2 miles at its widest point, and has a shoreline of 25 miles. The lake has a fee owned perimeter of 39 miles. The total fee simple acreage (government owned property) is 7,488 acres with 675 acres of flowage easement lands (private property the government has an agreement with the landowners to flood.) Of this total acreage in fee simple, 3,570 is water area and 3,918 acres is land area above the conservation pool elevation. The conservation pool has a top elevation of 421 feet above mean sea level.

Eight lakes have been completed for flood control and allied purposes for the Trinity River Basin; Lewisville, Ray Roberts and Grapevine lakes of the Elm Fork Project Office along with the five lakes of the Trinity Project Office; Benbrook, Lavon, Navarro Mills, Bardwell and Joe Pool. Bardwell Lake furnishes storage space for an adequate water supply for municipalities in the surrounding northeast Texas area and provides flood protection to about 495,000 acres of land in the flood plains of Waxahachie Creek, Chambers Creek, Richland Creek, and the Trinity River. Waxahachie Creek is one of the principal tributaries of Chambers Creek and drains an area of 187 square miles; the Bardwell Lake dam controls about 95% of this area. 

The Bardwell Lake dam is located at river mile 5.0 on Waxahachie Creek about 5 miles south of Ennis, Texas. The lake is located entirely within Ellis County. The dam is an earthfill embankment 15,400 feet (almost 3 miles) long with maximum height of 82 feet above the streambed and a crown (top) width of 20 feet. At the dam the streambed has an approximate elevation of 377.6 feet above mean sea level. The dam includes a separate outlet works and an uncontrolled spillway section. The spillway is a 350 foot uncontrolled broadcrested weir structure with a crest elevation of 439 feet above mean sea level. Releases of water from the flood control pool are made through the outlet works structure which has a 10 foot diameter conduit (tunnel) controlled by two 5 foot by 10 foot sluice gates.

Bardwell is a multi-purpose flood control and water conservation lake with a total storage capacity of 140,000 acre-feet (one acre-foot is one acre of water one foot deep, or about 326,000 gallons.) The lake has a sediment reserve of 17,600 acre-feet for storage of an estimated 100 years of sediment deposition and provides 79,600 acre-feet of flood control storage. It has a conservation storage of 42,800 acre-feet at the conservation pool level for municipal water supply and other beneficial uses. 

The state of Texas controls allocations of water from the conservation pool through the Trinity River Authority (TRA.) The Secretary of the Army approved a contract on June 24, 1963, authorizing the TRA to utilize 25% of the conservation storage space (10,700 acre-feet) as water supply for the city of Ennis. A supplemental agreement to the contract approved in October 1969 reallocated 60% of the water in the conservation pool to the city of Ennis and 40% to the city of Waxahachie. 

Bardwell Lake has a flood control pool, the portion of the lake allocated to flood control storage, located between the top of the conservation pool at elevation 421 msl and the top of the uncontrolled spillway at elevation 439 msl. The lake level at 439 would cover an area of 6,040 surface acres. When the lake impounds (holds) water in the flood control pool, these waters are released as rapidly as downstream conditions permit so that flood control storage will be available for succeeding floods. Simply put, flood control is holding back water to help prevent flood damage below the dam and letting out only as much water as the creeks and rivers will hold within their banks. The water surface level is maintained at elevation 421.0 as much of the time as possible; however, this is subject to fluctuation upward when flood waters are being stored, or downward, depending upon evaporation and the withdrawals for water supply from the conservation storage. The lake levels resulting from ordinary floods are not unfavorable to recreational activities. 

Although not a primary purpose for the construction of Bardwell Lake, recreation has increasingly become a major component in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ multiple use approach to managing our nation's resources. The public is always welcome at Bardwell Lake. Recreation and favorable fish and wildlife habitats are other beneficial uses derived from this lake and others like it, built and operated by the Corps of Engineers. With lake property open to all, there are many attractive areas for outdoor recreation, water sports, hunting, fishing, and boating, or just relaxed living. Information pamphlets and copies of rules and regulations for boating and public-use areas are available at the lake office and attended gatehouses in the recreation areas. Additional information may be obtained at the Bardwell Lake office or by writing to: US Army Corps of Engineers, 4000 Observation Dr., Ennis, TX 75119