The two earthen dams were erected by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to protect downtown Houston after flooding wrecked the city in 1935. Unlike traditional "lake-forming" dams, the reservoirs are not clearly defined and are dry much of the year. The water they impound during heavy rains sprawls west across flatland into what was once open prairie. The flood pool grows depending on rainfall and on how much water the Army Corps releases through the dams' gates.
Rick Kornele and Charles Rayburn fished and crabbed as small boys on a sand bar near a popular boat ramp on the San Jacinto River - a site today blocked off by an imposing chain-link fence that's plastered with warning signs in three languages.