White Rock Lake, Dallas: Part I

And now it’s time for a visit to everyone’s favorite Metroplex reservoir, the famous White Rock Lake! This 1,254-acre body of water, so named because it was formed from damming White Rock Creek in East Dallas in 1910, was originally created to provide a source of drinking water for the rapidly growing city. That lasted only until it was superseded by Lake Dallas (now Lake Lewisville) back in the 1930s. White Rock doesn’t provide much of Dallas’ drinking water these days, but it has become a recreational fixture in the Metroplex. It’s also used as a coolant source for a local power plant, I believe, and the old waterworks has become a historic site on the National Record of Historic Places.


White Rock Lake is much beloved of the people who live in the area. In fact, there’s a large group of volunteers who help care for it, including a group called “For the Love of the Lake.” Whatever its artificial origins, White Rock Lake has become that wonderful oddity: a big chunk of Mother Nature plunked down right in the middle of a bustling burg. Yes, it’s a tame, well-manicured chunk of Mother Nature, admittedly, but its presence offers surcease from the daily grind. It’s worth a look if you ever happen to be visiting the East Dallas/Garland area.


There’s even a legend connected with it: a classic variation of the old hitchhiker ghost story. As the story goes, occasionally a girl wearing dripping wet formal wear from the 1920s era will flag down a car on the road circling the lake. She’ll claim she’s had an accident and needs to get home, but when the driver arrives at the address specified the girl has disappeared, leaving only a wet car seat behind. When the driver knocks at the door to the house, the stricken occupants say that she was their daughter — a girl who drowned in a boating accident many years ago. This version dates from the 1960s or so. Later versions of the tale say that when the driver arrives at the address, he finds only apartments — the house at that location was torn down long ago.


Chilling, eh? Not that I believe it or anything, but let’s just say that I’m glad I was last tooling around the lake during the day rather than in the evening. Not that this particular day was anything to be proud of; it was nice and cold and hazy. Perfect for outdoor photography, yes? Perhaps not, but I thought I got some good pictures. Come spring, I’ll supplement these with some nice photos on a clear day, once the trees leaf out.


White Rock Lake has numerous places where you can enjoy yourself, including plenty of parkland, several fishing piers, <> bike and hiking trails, and the like. Most of the parkland is considered part of the massive White Rock Lake Park, which basically wrap around the entire lake. Part of the park is located near the dam spillway, where the lake overflows into the Trinity River at the intersection of Garland Road and Winsted Drive. While there’s no direct access to the dam, of course, you can get close enough to get a decent view. At times like these, when the lake’s full, it’s rather intriguing to visit. I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of structure; I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with all that raw power displayed as the water spills over the dam elements. In any case, here’s what the dam/spillway complex itself looks like, from the downstream side:




Here’s a closer view of the business end:




There’s an easily-accessible pedestrian bridge that runs across the stream, just aft of the last concrete “stair steps” of the spillway. The offers an excellent opportunity for photography, as you can see in the above pictures and here:


Stair Steps


But there’s plenty more to see than this, of course. There’s one road, Lawther, that basically encircles the lake, and I enjoy driving around it and taking in the view. In most areas there’s an excellent view of the lake itself. It wasn’t so great the day I visited last, I’m afraid. Although I thought the mist and stark vegetation made for a striking composition for the following shot, which was taken from a point next to a bike trail, I’m not sure I captured it here.


Misty Lake


Here’s another view of the misty lake, looking east, from one of the many hills of White Rock Lake Park:


White Rock Lake Park


There’s more to see of White Rock Lake and its environs, but that’s all we have time for today, Constant Reader. Join us for the next exciting episode, in which we’ll conclude our whirlwind tour of the lake.

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