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White Rock Lake Park

White Rock Lake ParkEstablished in 1929, White Rock Lake Park is the largest and one of the most popular public recreation areas in Dallas. Each year it attracts an estimated 300,000 visitors - more than the Dallas Zoo. Cyclists, joggers, picnickers, boaters, fishermen, young lovers, and families all come here to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and the park's pastoral setting. No one, perhaps, has said it better than former Dallas Morning News columnist Jon Anders, who called the park's 2,115 acres (including 1,088 acres of lake surface) "the soft soul of the city."

Its centerpiece is White Rock Lake, a man-made reservoir created in 1911 by the damming of White Rock Creek, a stream that originates in a pasture near the town of Frisco in nearby Collin County. Surrounding the nine and a half mile long shoreline are more than a thousand wooded acres that provide a safe haven for a wide variety of plant and animal life. Among and beneath the leafy canopies of some 49 varieties of trees (including oaks, pecan, sweet gum, and cottonwoods) can be found squirrels, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, possums, bobcats, red foxes, and minks - to name but a few of the 33 species of mammals who inhabit this urban oasis. An assortment of reptiles and amphibians, including rattlesnakes, turtles, lizards, horned toads, salamanders, toads and frogs are equally at home beneath the leafy bower of the park's approximately 1,442 trees. No less than 217 species of birds, including swans, pelicans, sea gulls, loons, and ducks of all kinds, can be seen on their branches, in the air, or on the water and beneath the surface of this angler's paradise swim 19 kinds of fish.

The park's facilities, many of which were constructed during the 1930s by the Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, include bridges, playgrounds, drinking water fountains, restrooms, and picnic pavilions. More than 200 picnic tables are also available for use. Of all the private residences that line the park, one of the most remarkable is a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon; built by the late oil magnate H. L. Hunt. On the opposite shore stands another noteworthy residence: Rancho Encinal, the Spanish-style home of another oilman, the late Everett Lee DeGolyer. The DeGolyer estate is now home to the Dallas Arboretum.

Another lakeside structure that has found a new use is the old bathhouse, constructed in 1930 on the western shore. Until 1953, when a severe drought led the city to put a temporary ban on lake swimming (which has since become permanent), Dallasites came here in droves each summer. After sitting vacant for three decades, the building found a new life in the 1980s as the Bathhouse Cultural Center. Today it is a popular venue for art exhibits, plays, and musical acts.

In addition to all the wildlife that can be found here, a ghost that skeptics dismiss as an urban legend is also said to inhabit the shores of White Rock Lake. Known locally as "the Lady of the Lake," she is alleged to be the troubled spirit of a young high school girl who was drowned when her date accidentally drove his car into the water on prom night many years ago.

Toward the end of World War II, barracks formerly inhabited by Civilian Conservation Corp workers in the 1930s were used to confine German P.O.W.s captured in North Africa. Those buildings, no longer standing, were located on the lake's western shore, on the site of a present-day baseball diamond at Winfrey Point.

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