Historic Photos Show The Construction Of The Lake Meredith Dam
Before Lake Meredith existed just outside of the town of Fritch, the Canadian River flowed freely through the area and the town of Sanford. With the need to supply Amarillo and other panhandle towns with reliable sources of drinking water, it was decided a dam would be built along the Canadian River. In the mid 1960's construction was completed on the mile long Sanford Dam. The dam measures 228 feet high and at it's base is around 1,900 feet thick. To build such a structure, took a lot of engineering, ingenuity, and manpower.
While many of us have seen the present day dam and Lake Meredith, very few of us have ever seen the site before the dam was built or while it was being constructed. Thanks to area resident Bryce McDaniel, he has shared old slides with us his parents took before and during the construction of the Sanford Dam.
In the first photo below, you can see the area where the dam was to be located before construction began. At the time, the Canadian River was free flowing and known to flood frequently.
The next photo shows construction starting on the dam and the area around it.
In the final photo we have, you can see the work underway to grade the area and build the base of the future dam. It appears you can see a portion of the Canadian River in the background.
After the dam was completed, the area did not see the amount of downflow on the river that then engineers hoped would fill the new Lake Meredith. Flooding in previous years that would have filled the lake did not happen again, and it was a slow process to get enough water in the new basin to start pumping for drinking water. One of the reasons the river slowed was the construction of Ute Lake and dam in New Mexico. The new Ute project was completed before the Sanford Dam and would go on to slow downriver flow of the Canadian River. In recent years, Lake Meredith as gone through a severe drought and it is taking years to recover from that as well.