Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back Roads Tour: Lake O. H. Ivie

Donna and I were getting a bit restless, so we decided a drive in the country was in order. I had been thinking of a drive over to O. H. Ivie Reservoir lately, so that seemed like the place to go.

We got an early start Thursday, heading to the east edge of town. At Loop 306, we headed east on Highway 380 for about 30 miles to Paint Rock. About 2 or 3 miles east of the loop, we crossed the Concho River, which would then remain just to our north for the remainder of the drive to Paint Rock. The first half of the drive passed through flat, productive farm land. It's summertime, and the cotton is tall out there in Lipan Flats. We passed through the tiny community of Veribest, home of the Falcons of six-man football. There isn't much there, just a post office, some homes, a Baptist church, and the school. I like a country school like this. In fact, I taught in such a place during the 1980s, in little Wellman about 50 miles southwest of Lubbock. It was one of my favorite teaching experiences.

A few miles east of Veribest, the flat farm land began to disappear, replaced by rolling ranch land covered with mesquite and rocks and grass and cactus. Before long, we found ourselves entering the small community of Paint Rock. Though home to fewer than 300 people, it remains the county seat of Concho County. As with Veribest, this is another six-man football school. What a great game six-man football is. If you've never seen the game played, you have missed a great experience.

Paint Rock doesn't have much. Residents probably journey to either nearby Ballinger (16 miles north) or to San Angelo (30 miles west) for most of their shopping. Besides being the county seat, the town is also home to some Indian petroglyphs. Unfortunately, these are located on private land on the north side of the Concho River just north of town, and arrangements must be made with the owners to visit the site.

South side of Concho County courthouse in Paint Rock, Texas

North side of Concho County courthouse, with mostly deserted shops along US 83.

Concho River, taken from US 83 bridge. Notice old bridge support in left of picture among trees.

This is the bridge over the Concho River on Highway 1929. That is a really big house on the bluff. At one time, much of this land was covered with the waters of O. H. Ivie, but that was quite a while ago.
At Paint Rock, we turned north on US 83, crossing the Concho River on the north edge of town. About 3 miles farther, we turned east on Highway 1929, the Ray Stoker, Jr., highway. In 11 miles, we crossed the Concho River again. This is where the reservoir really begins.

O. H. Ivie Reservoir was impounded in 1990. It is formed by waters from the Colorado and Concho Rivers. It has the potential to be a rather large lake, with a potential surface area of almost 20,000 acres and a depth of 119 feet. The lake provides water for a number of West Texas communities, such as Abilene, Ballinger, Big Spring, Midland, Millersview-Doole, Odessa, San Angelo, and Snyder. The lake is owned and operated by the Colorado River Municipal Water District. It has a storage capacity of 554,339 acre feet. It currently has only 117,679 acre feet, so it is at about 20% capacity.

Since we moved to San Angelo in 2011, it seems that the lake has hovered at such levels, even dipping to 15% capacity of so at one time. We just can't seem to get the sustained rains we need to replenish the lake. All of the data above is just that -- data. Numbers are one thing, but when you actually see the lake, they you really realize just how precarious your situation can be. Fortunately, San Angelo has other water sources it can utilize. Still, water remains one of our top concerns.

The lake around the Concho Park area. Not much water out there.

But I digress . . . . . let's get back to the trip.

There is not much development around the reservoir. At one time, I think there was some attempt at development. However, the consistently low water levels have impacted those attempts. There are some parks, such as Concho Park and Kennedy Park. Camping is available, but we found the facilities to be in rather poor condition. The concession at Kennedy Park appears to be for sale and it did not appear to be open. The whole thing is a bit depressing.

Hawk surveying the country from his perch on power pole.
View of the lake from high ground on the highway.
Just before the dam, we came across a scenic area, so we pulled off and I was able to snap some pictures of the dam and lake. From there, we drove along the downriver side of the dam, then continued around the lake. We soon intersected with Highway 503, turned north, and headed to Valera. Along the way, we passed the small community of Voss and the country school of Panther Creek, another six-man football school. I'm so glad to see these small country schools surviving. They do such a wonderful job of teaching the basics.

Lake with dam on right. Picture taken from scenic view area.
View of dam on downstream side.

Colorado River downstream from the dam.

Boat Ramp in Kennedy Park

Old school building in Valera.
At Valera, we turned west on US 67 and headed to Ballinger, where we enjoyed cheeseburgers at Gonzalez Restaurant at the corner of US 67 and North 7th Street.

No comments:

Post a Comment