Heart of Louisiana: Toledo Bend Reservoir

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Back in the 1960′s, Louisiana and Texas had a really big idea. Build a dam on the Sabine River, the boundary between the two states, and create a huge reservoir and also generate electricity.

A few days of rain can get the Spillway roaring at the dam at the Toledo Bend Reservoir on Louisiana’s western border.

“A copy of this spillway, you can see the different gates that we would have,” says Barton Rumsey.

Rumsey, a retired engineer, recalls what it was like when the Toledo Bend Reservoir was built in the late 1960′s. He started working for Louisiana’s Sabine River Authority a few months after the dam was completed.

“It requires a little bit of travel, you know, it’s way back out here in the backwoods,” says Rumsey.

Rumsey’s job was to design roads and recreation areas along the shoreline of the new reservoir, the largest in the South. The 185,000 acre man-made lake begins near the town of Logansport and stretches 65 miles to the south to the dam at the southern end.

“A lot of commercial operations along the shoreline of the reservoir marinas, boating facilities. So there’s subdivisions developed, being developed, people moving in,” says Rumsey.

The water that ends up in the reservoir comes from as far north as Dallas. A spillway controls the water level. This spillway flow is only 10 percent of its capacity.

On the Texas side of the two-mile long dam, the reservoir feeds the hydroelectric power plant. Revenue from the electricity helped pay for construction of the reservoir, which was built by Louisiana and Texas with no federal dollars.

And how much power can you generate at the plant here?

“They have two units and we now have a capability of 75 megawatts. That is probably enough to supply a city about the size of 10 to 15,000 people,” says Rumsey.

But the greatest benefit of the Toledo Bend Reservoir and dam appears to be recreation. Especially fishing.

“Toledo Bend was by the bass fishing people selected a couple of years ago as the best bass fishing lake in the state,” says Rumsey.

Louisiana’s shoreline is also home to two state parks. There is North Toledo Bend near the town of Zwolle and South Toledo Bend State Park located near the dam at Anaoco.

“It’s something that everybody should come and visit and enjoy because it belongs to them,” says Rumsey.

And that was your job, to design some of that development in the early days. Did you think, ‘Yeah, it sounds great but I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen’?”

“Well, it’s one of the things you plan for and you know hopefully your plans come true,” says Rumsey.

And after a lifetime spent working at the dam and creating more public access to this massive reservoir, it’s clear some of those plans have come true.

For more information on the Toledo Bend Reservoir and the state parks in that area, visit HeartofLouisiana.com.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include the headline.

Copyright 2021 WVUE. All rights reserved.