Town Bluff Dam

Here’s a few photos and some data on Town Bluff Dam.

The Dam is located in southeast Texas on the Neches River at the headwaters of Big Thicket National Preserve. The pool of water behind it is called the BA Steinhagen Reservoir.

The name of the Town — Town Bluff — is a dead give away to why they built a dam there.

The high bluffs that rise up on either side of the floodplain made it a strategic local for plugging the river.

But the Lower Neches has a broad floodplain: so this isn’t your narrow Hoover Dam type gorge.

Town Bluff dam is over a mile long.

What I find really exciting about the dam is that the US Geological Survey has been monitoring flows in the Neches at downstream Evadale since the 1920s, and in a downstream tributary of the Neches — called Village Creek — since the 1940s.

Town Bluff dam didn’t get built until the 1950s.

That means the data set can give us a peak into how the dam altered flows in the Neches River.

Among other things, dams tend to dampen the amplitude of peak flood events.
We can see that for Town Bluff Dame in the graphic below. It shows the peak springtime flow measured in the Neches at Evadale and, for comparison purposes, also in the dam-less Village Creek that feeds into the river.

Prior to the Dam, the Neches regularly peaked at over 30,000 cfs, even as high as 80,000 cfs … but has rarely exceeded that level over the past 50 years. In comparison, the un-dammed Village Creek shows no difference in peak flooding events over its period of record.
Peak springtime flows play a vital role for maintain and replenish oxbows and sand bars, critical ecological components of the riparian corridor. That was the reason that they momentarily opened the spillways on Glen Canyon spillways earlier this year, in attempt to help rebuild sand bars along the banks of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park downstream.

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