Red Bluff Dam and Reservoir

By: Delmar J. Hayter

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 1, 1995

Red Bluff Reservoir is on the Pecos River in Reeves and Loving counties, forty-five miles north of Pecos (at 31°54' N, 103°55' W). It extends into Eddy County, New Mexico, and takes its name from red bluffs along the river. T. A. Ezell became interested in constructing a dam at the site in 1905, but it did not materialize. Ten projects were diverting water from the Pecos by 1914, and the West Texas Reclamation Association was formed to study possibilities. In 1916 The Pecos Valley of Texas Water Users Association filed a petition with the United States Secretary of the Interior requesting aid for a reservoir. A new organization, the Red Bluff Water Improvement District, developed plans to include lands from Red Bluff to Grandfalls, Texas.

The water users' contract was approved in 1920, and surveying started in 1921. Agreement between Texas and New Mexico provided for construction in 1924. President Calvin Coolidge approved the plan in 1926. Seven water districts were combined into the Red Bluff Water Control District in 1927. The Public Works Administration approved the loan in October 1934, bonds were sold to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, construction was then started, and the dam was completed by September 1936 at a cost of $2 million. Water use started in 1937.

The drainage area of the reservoir is 20,720 square miles, with usable storage of 307,000 acre-feet. The dam is an earthfill type, 9,200 feet long, 102 feet high at the river, and 25 feet wide at the top. The reservoir is used for irrigation of 145,000 acres and for two hydroelectric units with a combined capacity of 2,300 kilowatts. The lake covers the historic sites of Camp Pope and Pope's Crossing, a stagecoach stop and ford of the nineteenth century.

C. L. Dowell, Dams and Reservoirs in Texas: History and Descriptive Information (Texas Water Commission Bulletin 6408 [Austin, 1964]). Alton Hughes, Pecos: A History of the Pioneer West (Seagraves, Texas: Pioneer, 1978).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Delmar J. Hayter, “Red Bluff Dam and Reservoir,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995