A global boom in dam construction has reduced sediment loading of large rivers, as well as their connected floodplains. In order to explore potential effects of hydrological regulation on floodplain ecosystems, this study presents concentrations of inorganic elements, organic matter content and grain size spectra in 210Pb-dated sediment cores of five lakes in the middle Yangtze River floodplain. These lakes had free hydrological connectivity with the Yangtze River before the operation of local sluice gates, and hence K-rich but Al-poor particulates from the upper Yangtze reaches can be transported into lakes during periods of high river discharge. After hydrological regulation, sedimentary K/Al ratios registered substantial decreases in the study lakes, probably due to the declining supply of fine-grained and K-enriched riverine particulates from the Yangtze River. In East Dongting Lake, a hydrologically open lake proximal to the Three Gorges Dam (TGD), the sharp decrease in K/Al ratio after 2003 mainly responded to declining sediment supply from the Yangtze River after the TGD operation. In addition, prolonged water retention time probably promoted aquatic production and greater deposition of organic matter, as indicated by recent increases in organic matter content in the upper strata of the dammed lakes. Taken together, sedimentary K/Al ratios provide essential information on effects of past hydrological changes on sediment supply and aquatic productivity over multi-decadal timescales in these floodplain lakes with scarce monitoring data. The impacts of dam construction during recent decades on sediment composition in middle Yangtze floodplain lakes might be widespread in other similar floodplains worldwide. Thus sedimentary records can be utilized to inform and direct floodplain management.