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Rattlers, gators, armadillos, and javelina were companions of early survey crews as they worked in the area of the Nueces River Project near Three Rivers, Texas. One contract worker in 1976 referred to them as `critters.` He said the real `legend of Choke Canyon` was a 9-foot alligator that made his home in ranch ponds. The aggressive alligator frequently left the tank to greet visitors and eventually had to be relocated. Other alligators also had to be moved from one location to another during construction activities.
For many years Mexico claimed the Nueces River as the boundary between Mexico and Texas. The Nueces River is in the area of south Texas known as Brush Country where the Texas cattle industry had its beginning as settlers built herds from wild cattle in the area. The settlers lived in towns for the most part because isolation threatened their survival. The frontier towns were located along banks of rivers, with Tilden and Oakville being the first towns in McMullen and Live Oak Counties. In the late 19th century, that pattern began to change as the cattle industry expanded and the sheep and wool industry evolved. The isolation of ranch life became a standard. Agriculture is very limited in the area.
Around the turn of the century, oil and gas exploration exploded. One of the first oil wells was on the Calliham ranch. The owner immediately built a store, and the town of Calliham was born. Calliham was quickly a `boom town,` but declined just as quickly some 30 years later. Since the town of Calliham was to be inundated by the construction of Choke Canyon Dam, Reclamation relocated the Town and its residents about 2 miles south on the relocated State Highway 72.
Uranium and lignite mines now add to the area`s economy along with oil and gas, but ranching is still predominant.
There is no allocation of storage for flood control at Choke Canyon Reservoir.
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Limited archeological fieldwork had been done in Live Oak and McMullen Counties prior to advance planning for the Nueces River Project. Now more than 500 archeological and historical sites have been recorded in the reservoir area, and the more important ones have been scientifically excavated. Most of the sites were prehistoric Indian campgrounds, but some were homesteads and cemeteries dating from the 1850`s.
One of the 19th century sites, the Nichols House, was located just below the damsite and had to be moved during construction. It was fully documented and determined eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first homesteads built in the area and also was used as a stagecoach stop at one time. Fencing was placed around the Nichols House during construction to prevent damage to the structure and area.