Johnson Lake was named for George E. Johnson, 1885-1967. He was both an electrical and a civil engineer. As State Engineer, 1915-1923, he laid out the Nebraska highway system. He was a Nebraska pioneer in the early days of radio and aviation and pioneered in the use of Nebraska farm products to make industrial alcohol. In 1961 he received the Nebraska Builder Award from the University of Nebraska for his many years of service to the State. When Johnson Lake was formed he was Chief Engineer and General Manager of Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. Through his efforts and the efforts of others like him came the system of dams, reservoirs, and canals which provides flood protection, irrigation, recreation, and electric power in the South Platte area. Part of Nebraska's "Chain O'Lakes" built by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District from 1934-1941, Johnson Lake is the largest of the canyon lakes in the Tri-County development. Its dam was closed and it started to fill in December, 1940. Johnson Lake State Recreational Area is one of more than 50 such areas managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.