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History of White Rock Lake

Photograph donated by Johnny Williams

Photograph donated by Johnny Williams

White Rock Lake, which celebrated its Centennial in 2011, is enjoyed by more than 1 million visitors a year. This urban oasis, once the main water source for the city of Dallas, has become a recreational magnet for Dallas-area residents looking to partake in the park’s well-maintained hike-and-bike trails, sailing, kayaking, bird watching, picnic sites, fishing, and a host of other outdoor activities. Here is a brief timeline of White Rock Lake’s rich history (attributed to Sally Rodriguez’s book Images of America: White Rock Lake).

1910 2,292 acres purchased to create new lake 10 miles northeast of town for $176,420.

1911 Dam and spillway complete.

1914 Lake was completely filled.

1929 A new larger lake was completed in Lewisville and White Rock was no longer needed as a water source. The City of Dallas transferred ownership of the land surround the lake to the Park and Recreation Department.

1930 The city moved quickly and built the Bath House and Bathing Beach, the BoatHouse at T&P Hill and the Fish Hatchery. Private clubhouses and camps began to pop up around White Rock Lake. Activities like swimming, water skiing and speedboat races were popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

1931 Stone Tables Picnic Pavilion was built by the City of Dallas.

1935 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began work at White Rock Lake with the following improvements: planting of 1500 trees, a shelter house, two combination buildings, three latrines, a lily pond and the development of the trails, picnic grounds and a campground. Winfrey Point was started but was not complete when the CCC closed and WWII began.

1937 First dredging of White Rock Lake took 5 years to complete due to lack of funding.

1939 The Corinthian Sailing Club was established at WRL.

1942 The Lakewood, Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills neighborhoods began to develop. The City ruled that the private clubhouses and camps be removed to provide more public access to the park.

1943 Sunset Inn served as a restaurant at White Rock Lake.

1946 Bonnie Barge was brought to White Rock Lake

1953 City of Dallas was in a severe drought and the Dallas Water Utilities once again had to rely on the lake for a water source. A swimming ban was issued that is still in effect today.

1962 Dallas experienced a major flood and Dreyfus Club, one of the last private clubs at White Rock, was sold to the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department.

1965 Mockingbird Lane was extended to Buckner Boulevard providing easier access to the park.

1974 White Rock Lake was dredged again. The silt was not hauled off but was used to create Mockingbird Point where the dog park is now located.

1976 The Park and Recreation Department purchased the 43 acre DeGolyer Estate and in 1984 the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society began to manage and operate the estate.

2011 White Rock Lake celebrated its Centennial anniversary. Lake and user groups came together and hosted over 25 different events over 3 months raising awareness and funds for our park.