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On a hot summer day in the northern Hill Country region of Texas, Lake Ivie is an ideal place to be. Officially named O.H.Ivie Reservoir, the waters are commonly called Lake Ivie among the locals. The original name was Stacy Reservoir after the small village of Stacy, but was renamed O.H.Ivie to honor Colorado River Municipal Water District's general manager by the same name. By any name, the inviting water welcomes all who come to fish, boat, water ski, camp or swim.
The reservoir filled after the Simon W. Freese Dam was built across the confluence of the Colorado and Concho rivers in 1989 to provide recreation and water supply to a number of nearby cities. Pipelines connect the reservoir to Abilene, San Angelo, Odessa, Midland, Big Spring, Snyder and other small cities. Long in the planning stages, O.H.Ivie Reservoir was delayed for several years due to concerns about protecting the habitat of the endangered Concho water snake. Building the reservoir also involved moving several small family cemeteries. Once completed, the reservoir filled much quicker than expected due to a major 'gully-washer' of a rainstorm, delighting those who were eagerly awaiting the new lake. When full, the lake covers over 19,000 acres. However, given the 'feast-or-famine' rainfall patterns of Texas, levels can vary considerably.
As a result of the nearly 10-year drought, Lake Ivie's levels dropped to a record low and are slowly returning to higher shorelines. Due to drainage patterns within the reservoir's 12,600 square mile watershed, torrential Texas rains in 2016 that caused flooding relatively short distances away added very little water to Lake Ivie. Locals in the area are philosophical about the situation and realize that the vagaries of Texas weather will eventually refill the lake. Meanwhile, low water levels have made some of the boat ramps unusable, although others were built to be accessible particularly in times of low water and remain open.
Three parks were created by the Water District to provide access and recreation for visitors: Kennedy Park near the dam, Padgitt Park along the north shoreline, and Concho Park along the south shore. All three parks offer swimming, camping, picnic areas with fire pits, modern restroom facilities and a variety of other amenities. All hold boat ramps, either within the park or adjacent at commercial facilities. Two concession-operated marinas are located at Concho Park and Kennedy Park/Elm Creek Village. Both are full-service marinas offering launch and dock facilities, boat gas and diesel, boating supplies, bait, snack bar and camping supplies. Access to the Water District parks requires a Recreation Daily Vehicle pass, although the commercial facilities can be accessed without one. Both marinas also operate small motels or cabin rentals, along with RV and mobile home rental lots on a monthly basis.
Bass fishing is big news at O.H.Ivie Reservoir. Florida strain largemouth bass are regularly stocked in the lake where they join native largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, crappie, white bass, catfish and sunfish. In recent years, fishing prospects have matured at the young reservoir to the point where Lake Ivie is considered the second-best bass fishing lake in Texas. Low water levels have made the wily bass a bit harder to catch, but they are still there and still taking a well-presented lure. Serious first-time anglers often engage the services of local fishing guides who know the waters well because of the reservoir's large size and its many coves and arms. The area was not clear-cut before flooding, so many areas of submerged trees and brush offer excellent fish habitat. Several bass tournaments are held here annually.
Three Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are located adjacent to or near the three parks and are open to public hunting with a permit. Access for hunting varies with area and annual game surveys. WMA Hunting Permits for deer, quail and turkey must be applied for between July 15 and August 15 and are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. The WMAs are open to hiking and bird watching to those with a Daily Vehicle pass. Visitors must park in designated parking areas and walk in to the interior. The area around O.H.Ivie Reservoir is noted among bird watchers as a good place to view eagles, loons and ducks in winter and a wide variety of songbirds during the summer.
Although the shoreline is wooded and appears virtually untouched, a few housing developments are located near the water's edge. Some of these developments are modest and suitable for a vacation cottage, while others are more upscale. Limited private vacation rentals can be found along the shore of Lake Ivie, usually with beautiful views and often private docks. Most water sports can be enjoyed, including water skiing, wakeboarding, sailing, canoeing and kayaking. Needed items can easily be purchased at the camp stores operated by the marinas, or vacationers can head south to the Village of Eden 20 miles away.
Eden relies on visiting hunters and vacationers for much of its business, so devotes itself to providing entertainment to please their guests. Besides a variety of lodgings choices, including guest ranches, cottages and bed & breakfasts, Eden offers several annual events expressly geared toward attracting visitors to their little town. The Green Apple Art Center offers a music series with live concerts in an intimate setting on a regular basis and supports arts exhibits and lectures. The Eden Fall Festival features a World Class Bull Ride competition, while the Spring Stampede has a cook-off, rodeo and dance as part of its festivities. Expressly to welcome hunters, the Camouflage Cotillion provides a Hunter's Appreciation Dinner and dance. As a charity event to benefit military veterans, the annual Hero's Music Festival provides yet another form of entertainment eagerly awaited by regular visitors.
Lake Ivie is located 55 miles east of San Angelo. The city and surrounding area offer small heritage museums and archeological treasures. One of the most unusual is the 1000-year-old display of pictographs painted on the limestone walls of a rock outcropping near the town of Paint Rock, 15 miles west of the lake. The large array of pictographs are located on private property and, for their protection, can only be viewed as part of an organized guided tour. The spectacular pictographs depict a long history of native residence in the area and show even more recent events such as Spanish churches and massacres of European settlers in the 1840s. The knowledgeable guides can interpret what the scenes are thought to portray and the time periods in which they were painted.
Plan your trip to O.H. Ivie Reservoir to enjoy the water, wildlife, and wooded shoreline. You'll find it hard to leave.
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