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Photo Lake Wichita of Early Development.jpg

Bio


1901

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Bio


1901

 
 

LAKE WICHITA. Lake Wichita is a manmade reservoir on the southern edge of Wichita Falls in southeastern Wichita County and northeastern Archer County. In 1887, Joseph A. Kemp proposed a bond issue to finance the construction of a dam and a reservoir on Holliday Creek. However, the Texas Constitution of 1876 then prohibited such bond issues. When lobbying trips to Austin and even Washington, D.C., failed to secure backing for a constitutional amendment, Kemp moved to establish Lake Wichita through the Lake Wichita Irrigation and Water Company, which with a partner from Galveston, privately financed the construction of a dam and a reservoir just south of Wichita Falls. Within months, construction of the lake began. Residents of Bowman had to move to allow the water to fill the valley. Mr. J.S. Bridwell donated a portion of his land for the construction of the dam.

Lake Wichita, completed in 1901 at a cost of $175,000, had a surface area of 2,200 acres, a capacity of 14,000 acre-feet, and a drainage area of 134 square miles. This made Lake Wichita only the third manmade lake in Texas. Lake Wichita was only preceded by Lake Austin and Eagle Lake near Houston.

As the only lake of its kind in the area, people flocked to recreate at the “Gem of North Texas.” In 1909 a trolley line connected the city of Wichita Falls with the lake, which featured a recreational area including the three-story Colonnade pavilion. On August 2, 1912, at Dallas the Wichita Falls Water and Power Plant property, including the lake, was sold to a private business interest. Wichita Falls acquired the property by a bond issue on November 21, 1920. In 1921 the dirt dam was replaced by concrete.

Although the Lakeside Hotel burned in 1918 and was not rebuilt, the resort was popular for twenty years. Large crowds came on special days, and trains were run from towns including Fort Worth. In 1928 and 1929 the chamber of commerce sponsored carnivals. The lake subsequently declined as a resort, and the abandoned pavilion remained standing until 1955. In 1966 the city began selling some of the lake water to a nearby generating plant

Once alternative water supplies were developed, Wichita Falls initiated a project with the Corps of Engineers to control flooding below the reservoir. This project culminated in a new spillway being completed in August 1995 which is 4.7 feet lower than the original one. This reduced the surface acreage to 1,224 acres, mean depth to 4.5 feet and maximum depth to 9.5 feet. In an effort to sustain recreational use, the City of Wichita Falls diverts water from Lake Diversion in an attempt to maintain elevation at or near spillway level.

In March of 2004 a toxic golden alga event killed approximately 7,700 fish of which 93% were non-game fish. In March of 2007 another event occurred with an estimated 15,000 fish (primarily non-game species) dying. In February of 2009, a much larger golden alga event killed greater than 200,000 fish, including many game fish. In early 2012, another major kill occurred caused by a toxic golden alga bloom. Also in 2012, a prolonged drought significantly decreased water levels driving water temperatures and dissolved oxygen to lethal levels, resulting in two fish kill events that likely killed off all fish life. In 2014, Lake Wichita was nearly completely dry but rebounded in May 2015 when torrential rains filled the lake and water again went over the spillway.

Citations

"LAKE WICHITA," Handbook of Texas Online accessed May 11, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Lang, T., and R. Mauk. 2012. 2012 Fisheries Management Survey Report : Wichita Reservoir. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division. FEDERAL AID PROJECT F-221-M-3.

B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas, Vol. 2 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), pp. 444-445.

 

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Gem of North Texas


Gem of North Texas

Gem of North Texas


Gem of North Texas

lake wichita photo.jpg

3rd Oldest Lake in Texas


3rd Oldest Lake in Texas

 

3rd Oldest Lake in Texas


3rd Oldest Lake in Texas

 

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