BUCHANAN DAM — Annette Gardner enjoys a front seat to the heart of the Highland Lakes as the Lake Buchanan-Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce office manager.
The small chamber office, located on Texas 29 just west of the Inks Lake bridge, might not be as large as others, but it serves as a big “Welcome” mat to the Highland Lakes.
PHOTO 1: Lake Buchanan-Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce office manager Annette Gardner looks over some pieces for the organization’s museum about Buchanan Dam. Chamber officials are hoping area residents with memorabilia, stories and photographs of the dam’s construction are willing to share them with the museum. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
PHOTOS 2-3: Crews completed Buchanan Dam in 1938 to form the upper lake of the Highland Lakes chain: Lake Buchanan. Photos courtesy of the LCRA archives
“Last year, we had 8,000 to 10,000 people stop in our office,” she said. “That’s a tremendous number.”
While many of the people inquired about bluebonnets, resorts and recreational opportunities, it was another request that surprised Gardner. And not only her, but several members of the chamber’s board of directors.
“I get a lot of questions about Buchanan Dam and the lake,” she said. “It’s probably my most asked question, ‘How do we get access to the lake and the dam?’”
With so many inquiries about the dam, the chamber is building a museum dedicated to the structure. Crews completed Buchanan Dam in 1938 to form the upper lake of the Highland Lakes chain: Lake Buchanan. The structure itself is quite unique in that it stretches for more than two miles and is the largest of its type.
“The multi-arch dams take a tremendous amount of labor, so they aren’t built anymore,” Gardner said. “So, it’s a pretty incredible structure.”
For many years, the chamber office was located on the Lower Colorado River Authority property at Buchanan Dam. Next to the office, LCRA had a center that told the story about the dam and the people who built it.
“But following Sept. 11 (2001), the LCRA shut the area down, so they had to move the chamber,” said Ray McCasland, the current Lake Buchanan-Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce president. “And, apparently, the LCRA closed that little museum they had at the dam. One of the things the chamber has always wanted to do is put in a museum about the dam.”
The chamber moved to a new location that had barely enough room for the desk and information centers, let alone a museum. But in the back of many chamber members’ minds was the museum.
“When we opened the chamber at the (current) location, we had a second room, which we thought would make a great spot for the museum,” McCasland said.
When chamber officials reached out to LCRA about possibly getting some of the displays and items that were in the original museum, the pieces had been dispersed to other river authority offices and facilities. Chamber officers didn’t let this curtail their goal. With the LCRA archives staff assisting, the Lake Buchanan-Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce volunteers and Gardner have been creating a museum.
“We still have a ways to go,” McCasland said.
The chamber hopes area residents can help them out as well. McCasland said anybody with photos or stories of Buchanan Dam or other related items are welcome to share them with the chamber.
Carol Adams, a chamber board member, recalled hearing people tell her about a family member who worked on the dam at one time. But back then, she wasn’t connected with the chamber and didn’t get more information.
“Now, I’d love to get those stories,” she said.
The chamber, which primarily focuses on the Lake Buchanan and Inks Lake communities, promotes the entire Highland Lakes. The chamber office, 19611 Texas 29 in Buchanan Dam, is open six days a week, including Saturdays and Sundays. It’s closed on Tuesdays.
“I don’t know of any other chambers that are open on Saturdays and Sundays,” McCasland said. “Because of that, we’re one of the few places people coming through the area on weekends can stop and get information. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to call businesses and say, ‘Hey, we need more of your brochures.’”
Gardner said the little chamber office often serves as the information hub for the entire area simply because it’s open on the weekends.
“We catch them coming through here on their way to places like Fredericksburg and say, ‘Hey, you need to check this area out,’” she said.
When the chamber gets the Buchanan Dam museum completed, McCasland said it will be one more feather in the Highland Lakes’ cap.
“I have to admit, I was surprised by the interest in the dam,” he said. “Once we get it done, it will be a place people can bring their kids and show them about this incredible piece of architecture.”
For more information on the chamber or to help out the museum, call (512) 793-2803, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.buchanan-inks.com.