White Rock Lake may sit only five miles northeast of the city’s center, but, after just one step onto its massive grounds, you’ll feel light-years away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Dallas. Home to a 1,015-acre lake and a number of impressive park amenities, White Rock is considered one of the crown jewels of the Dallas park system.
Land for the lake was first purchased in 1910 in response to the city’s water shortage, and construction was completed only a year later, which included damming White Rock Creek to create the reservoir’s water supply. However, it wasn’t long before the city turned to a new, more abundant water source in Lewisville and transferred ownership of the grounds to the Parks and Recreation Department, setting the stage for the space we know today.
Work on the grounds mostly took place during the 1930s and included everything from building the Boathouse facilities and the Municipal Bath House (known today as the Bath House Cultural Center) to planting 1,500 trees and developing the park’s extensive trail system and picnic grounds.
The park soon became a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts — especially those who love being on the water — and activities such as swimming, water-skiing and speedboat racing were popular through the 1940s. In 1953, the city experienced a severe drought and once again turned to the lake as a water source, resulting in a swimming ban that still stands.
Today, the park continues to host more than 1 million yearly visitors looking to take advantage of its unique features, including the 9.33-mile hiking and biking trail that follows the contour of the lake’s shores. The loop is especially popular with runners, and the Dallas Running Club, which was founded in 1969, continues to operate and host races on the trail.
In addition, the three-acre, off-leash White Rock Lake Dog Park is a popular destination for Dallasites with furry friends. Newly renovated in 2015, the park now includes two paddock areas for either large or small dogs, a dog launch for water access and pet waste stations.
White Rock also boasts one of the most diverse ecosystems in the city. The grounds are home to many different varieties of grass, trees and flowers native to North Texas, as well as dozens of species of birds that nest near the water. Bird enthusiasts can spot everything from pelicans to geese and ducks to eagles, hawks and owls. However, the biggest crowd-pleaser is the lake’s famous — and rather mysterious — monk parakeet colony, which occupies territory near the electrical lines at the south end of the lake.
The water itself also continues to attract crowds. The White Rock Boathouse facilities house hundreds of boats and play host to popular rowing programs such as White Rock Rowing. Although motorized boats are now banned from the lake, sailboats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards are allowed, with some equipment available to rent on the grounds.
Lastly, White Rock Lake contains numerous bookable venues, such as the historic Filter Building, scenic Winfrey Point and the wooded Big Thicket, making it a prime destination for city residents looking to host weddings, receptions, parties, corporate events and other gatherings.