Swimming in White Rock and Why It’s called White Rock

Can people swim in White Rock Lake?  If not have they ever been able to?  From MR

Round Rock is named after an actual Round Rock, is White Rock Lake named after an actual white rock?  AH

I put these two questions together because, well, they’re both about White Rock.  And the simple answer, kinda yes sorta no…but really here you go.

First you can’t technically swim in the lake, not since 1952, when a drought forced the City to go back to using the lake as a public water source.  Could you swim in the lake before then?  Well, the Bath House on the east side of the lake used to have a beach with real sand out front. That beach on the lake in the 1940’s used to attract 10,000 people a day during the weekends.  They’d catch a streetcar down the Gaston line to last stop there at the spillway, and be ferried across by boat.  So a lot of people used to swim in the lake, back when White Rock Lake was considered the out skirts of town and a recreation lake like Possum Kingdom Lake or Lake Tawakoni is nowadays.


The building of the Damn

Much like those lakes, White Rock is a manmade lake. As a result of drought concerns in 1910, a damn was built on a creek the following year, and the lake eventually filled up by the mid-decade.  The Lake, was built on land that was mainly farm land, notably the Cox Family Farm.  The area had been originally settled by the Beeham family in the 1840’s not long after John Neely Bryan founded Dallas. The Beehams were among the first settlers of Dallas, Beeham’s wife was actually the first woman to visit the Dallas settlement.  She recorded on her first visit to the general store in Dallas, it had two items, a spool of fabric 3 yards long, and a barrel of whiskey.

1840-fabric-folded                awt-bourbon-cask-640_s640x427

Some of This                                                                                 And some of this

When  Beeham settled in Dallas, he settled along an escarpment above a creek.  An escarpment comprised of white chalky rocks, so he called the creek that ran through the white rocks, “White Rock Creek.”  The Lake would eventually take it’s name from the creek that he named.  So White Rock Lake is actually named after a bunch of white rocks, not one.


White Rocks from White Rock Creek

So why can’t you swim in white rock anymore?  Because the lake was never really a well-designed manmade lake.  The lake was only used as a water source until 1929, when Lake Lewisville was built.  So really only 15-20 years, which is a really short time for a public water source.  Of course from 1910 to 1930 Dallas went from 42,000 residents to over 250,000 so simple little White Rock wasn’t gonna do as a public water source, but it was still a lively recreational attraction.

In the years following White Rock’s removal as the public water source, there was some debate as to what to do with the Lake and the property around it.  Most, including George Kessler, agreed that the land immediately surrounding the Lake needed to be park land, but some wanted a Coney Island style attractions, while others, including Mayor, J. Waddy “Hot Dog” Tate wanted more subdued park amenities.  In the epic battle between the Coney folks and the Hot Dog folks, (ha) Hot Dog won.

jwt                                                     hotdog

Mayor Hot Dog                                                                                            Also Mayor Hot Dog

Well it might be more a result that the mansions begun to spring up around white rock, the planation style Bella Nora was built in ’29, H.L. Hunt’s Mt. Vernon’s replica was built ’38 and E. L. DeGolyer’s Rancho Encinal (currently The Dallas Arboretum) was built in ’39.  All surrounded the lake and likely won’t have taken to a giant Ferris wheel or fun house next to their million dollar homes.

So from the early 30’s to the late 40’s, a combination of Dallas County  chain gangs, New Deal CCC workers and German POW’s, built much of the trails, roads, benches, bridges and buildings currently serving White Rock.

ccc_chow_hall2          ccc_camp_view-400   CCC workers and their barracks (watermelon-kid.com

The lake since then has had its ups and downs.  The lady of the lake stories, the motorboat races,  the years of the submarine races at the lake(teenagers necking), the years of the lake used as a cruising ground for gays, the marathons,  the 75 pound cat fish that were pulled from the lake, etc.

But with local East Dallas volunteer groups like For the Love of Lake, it’s become hugely successful as an urban natural amenity in a town that has few.

117-rray-cycling-wrl  Also an artist’s Inspiration  (dallasartrevue.com)

One thought on “Swimming in White Rock and Why It’s called White Rock

  1. Pingback: The origin of Lakewood and why it’s become Highland Park East all of a sudden. | The Dallas Whisperer

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