Sam Rayburn Reservoir

By: Robert Wooster

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: December 3, 2020

Sam Rayburn Reservoir, formerly known as McGee Bend Reservoir, is dammed eighty miles north of Beaumont (at 31°04' N, 94°06' W). It is fed by the Angelina River and lies in Jasper, Angelina, Sabine, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine counties. The reservoir is flanked on the north and South banks by the Angelina National Forest. The United States Army Corps of Engineers and began construction at the McGee Bend site on September 7, 1956, and deliberate impoundment of water began on March 29, 1965. Paul Hardeman, Incorporated, of Stanton, California, served as general contractor for the project, which cost nearly $66,000,000. The project was renamed in honor of Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn in 1963. The dedication ceremony on May 8, 1965, included a principal address from President Lyndon Baines Johnson delivered by phone from the White House. The reservoir is designed for flood control and power generation, owned by the United States government, and operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth district. The earthfill dam has a spillway crest elevation of 176 feet and a top flood-control pool capacity of 3,997,600 acre-feet. The Sam Rayburn Dam Electric Cooperative operated two hydroelectric generators commissioned in September of 1965, which produce a total capacity of 52,000 kilowatt-hours marketed by the Southwestern Power Administration. Power generation began on July 1, 1966. The Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency formed in 1979 as a municipal power agency jointly owned by the cities of Liberty, Livingston, and Jasper. The agency was created to obtain electrical power for the member cities, as well as the Vinton Public Power Authority that provided power to refineries and chemical plants in Vinton, Louisiana. With a drainage area of 3,449 square miles, Rayburn Reservoir conserves water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational purposes. It is a premier largemouth bass fishery that hosts over three hundred tournaments annually.

Texas Water Development Board, Engineering Data on Dams and Reservoirs in Texas, Part 1 (Austin: Water Development Board, 1974). U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Data Texas: Water Year 1983, Volume 1 (Austin: U.S. Geological Survey, 1984).

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

Robert Wooster, “Sam Rayburn Reservoir,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

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December 3, 2020