“The Gem of Dallas”, “The Soul of Dallas”, an “urban oasis” – terms coined over the years to describe White Rock Lake. This beautiful area not only provides a natural habitat for flora and fauna, it is Dallas´ playground for many recreational activities.
In 1910, lake construction began by damming White Rock Creek, as drought and water shortage created the need for a public water reservoir. In the 1930´s shoreline and park development began in response to surrounding residential development. Swimming and motorized boats were allowed until the 1950´s. Later that decade the lake became a destination for teenagers, in particular, who would cruise, congregate and drink alcohol, which is forbidden in the park. As a result, crime and deterioration took over. As the city began to recognize the lake´s value, a new-found respect for this natural beauty emerged and improvements were made to preserve the lake´s future. This rebirth continues today and the citizens of Dallas are the beneficiaries.
The lake covers 1,254 acres with a maximum depth of 18 ft. It is surrounded by a 9.33- mile trail for hiking, running and cycling. It is bounded by Northwest Hwy. on the North, Garland Rd. on the South, Buckner Blvd. on the East, and is encircled by East and West Lawther Dr.
For a detail history and more facts:
Myths and Folklore
Probably the most well-known legend is that of the ghost of the “Lady of the Lake”. The tale is that of a girl in her 20´s who appears at night on the shoreline, dripping wet in 1920´s evening wear. A car driving along the road circling the lake stops when it sees her; she tells the driver she had an accident and needs to get home. The driver proceeds to the Oak Cliff address she provides, and upon arrival, the girl is gone, leaving just a water-soaked seat. The driver knocks on the door of the house and learns the girl was their daughter who died by drowning when she fell out of a boat on the lake at night many years prior. Another version is that when the driver arrives at the address, the house had been torn down and is now the site of an apartment complex. This story was the inspiration for a bluegrass song written in the 1960´s, “Bringing Mary Home”, and was subsequently recorded by several musical artists, including Ricky Skaggs. Many residents claim this to be a true story.
The lake is home to two sailing clubs, Corinthian Sailing Club and White Rock Boat Club. Both claim several nationally recognized sailors. These clubs exist to promote sailing and sailboat racing, offer sailing instruction and sponsor year round regattas and social activities.
For more information: www.cscsailing.org and www.whiterockboatclub.org
White Rock is an excellent lake for the paddling enthusiast. During the Arboretum´s summer outdoor concert series, groups paddle or sail down the lake to listen to the music off-shore and catch the beautiful sunsets for which White Rock is known. Kayaking instruction and rental is available:
Groups regularly participate in sculling and lessons and memberships are available. www.whiterockboathouse.com
The park is a destination for birding enthusiasts and nature photographers. It is designated by the Audubon Society as a bird watching area and wetlands site. The following is a list of just some of the birds that inhabit the park: Bald Eagle, Pelicans, Blue Heron, Ringed Beak Gull, Wood Ducks, Cormorant, American Coot, Owls, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Pelicans, Monk Parakeets, Thrushes, Orioles, Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Sandpipers, Egrets, Cedar Wax Wing, Mockingbirds, Purple Martins, White Ibis, Starlings, Canadian Goose, Anhinga, and Peacocks.
White Rock Lake has always attracted fishermen, and is populated with catfish, crappie, sunfish and bass. Several piers provide access for fishermen to enjoy.
The lake is a favorite of amateur and professional photographers alike. Many of these photographs are available on various websites, the FTLOTL office, and the lake´s museum.
There are numerous scenic picnic areas and rental facilities, such as Winfrey Point, the Big Thicket, and athletic fields. For reservations, call Dallas Parks and Recreation at 214-670-8740.
White Rock Lake Museum/Bath House Cultural Center
Situated on the east side of the lake, the Bath House Cultural Center is a venue for the visual and performing arts. It houses the White Rock Lake Museum whose purpose is to “preserve and present the human and natural history of the park and its surroundings.” For details:
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society
In 1977, the City of Dallas Park Board recommended that the grounds of the DeGolyer Estate on the southeast shore of the lake be the official site of this visionary botanical garden. It opened to the public in 1984 and support and interest has been overwhelming, drawing thousands each year. It is the location for many weddings, private and public events, and offers year-round attractions. The Dallas Arboretum is a “must-see” destination.
White Rock Marathon
The lake is the site for several races during the year, including the nationally recognized White Rock Marathon held in December which attracts thousands of runners. This event continues to grow in support, sponsorship and participation.
“For the Love of the Lake” (FTLOTL)
This impressive grass roots effort started in 1995 for the purpose of enhancing and preserving the lake and park. The “Adopt-a-Shoreline” program has attracted thousands of passionate and energetic volunteers who tirelessly pick up trash and recyclables, rain or shine, plant trees, paint and maintain lake facilities and monuments, and make lake conservation their priority. The raising of over a million dollars has enabled the purchase and installation of many new features and amenities. FTLOTL has acquired many sponsors, and has won countless local and state awards and recognition. Never has picking up trash been more fun or rewarding!
White Rock Dog Park, located at the north end of the lake at Mockingbird Point, opened in 2001. It offers designated areas for small dogs and large dogs to run and play, and a dog swimming area. It is open from 5am-Midnight year round, and is extremely popular with Dallas dogs and their owners.
Much of the park is undisturbed by man and is a refuge for many types of mammals, including bobcats, raccoons, opossum, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, rabbits and skunks. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs and toads.
Park curfew is Midnight to 5 AM.
For specific rules and regulations, contact Dallas Parks and Recreation at 214-670-8740
Future Plans & Improvements
The lake´s spillway on Garland Rd. @ Winsted re-opened to the public in June 2010 after an extensive $17 million renovation. It is now safer, more accessible, and offers more viewing opportunities. Over the years, upgrades have been made in roads and hike/bike trails, parking, landscaping, lighting, trash facilities, and flood and erosion control. A new pedestrian bridge from the east shore to the west shore was recently constructed. More plans and details can be found at: