Courtesy Grapevine Historical So
Popular recreation spot formerly home to farmers
Between the settlement of Grapevine in 1844 and the 1900s, farming dominated the city’s history. The area of land now occupied by Grapevine Lake, also known as “Lake Grapevine,” was once home to farmers and dairy producers.
According to historical records, the federal government acquired more than 12,000 acres of land in the late 1940s. The U.S. Congress approved the River & Harbors Act of 1945, which allowed the construction of Grapevine Lake, Benbrook Lake, Lavon Lake, Lewisville Lake and Ray Roberts Lake to help minimize flooding along the Trinity River floodplain, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Today Grapevine Lake serves as a major water source, but it was built to control flooding for the City of Dallas and to provide water rights for Dallas, Grapevine, University Park and Highland Park. The project cost about $11.75 million and opened in 1952.
“It (Grapevine Lake) changed our city,” Mayor William D. Tate said. “It was the first thing that really began to change us from an agricultural community [to a suburban city]. It displaced a lot of dairies and a lot of farms. Some of them were able to relocate in the area. Some had to go out of business.”
Tate was about 9 years old when his father, Grapevine Mayor Gordon Tate, dedicated Grapevine Lake in July 1952. William D. Tate recalls pushing one of eight tiny red buttons that lowered the gates to block water from passing through the dam, which allowed water to back up to make the lake. He said the state released several hundred thousands of bass, crappie and channel catfish fingerlings into the lake before it opened.
“They closed the fishing for two years to allow them to grow up,” he said. “When they opened it, they were about two pounds.”
Now many of the fish are descendants of the first fish released into the lake, Tate said.
Records have been broken for fish caught in Grapevine Lake. One blue catfish caught by rod and reel in March 2010 was 40 inches and 44.20 pounds, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife. The lake has helped spur economic development in Grapevine, Tate said.
“It exposed us as a community, and people started wanting to move here and live here to be close to the lake,” Tate said.
The lake stretches across 19 miles and covers 7,280 acres at a normal level of 535 feet elevation. It draws more than 2 million visitors every year for a variety of activities, such as camping, swimming, boating and fishing. A variety of fish, including spotted bass, largemouth bass, white bass, white crappie and channel catfish, populate the lake.
“It is viewed as a wonderful asset to the quality of life for the citizens of Grapevine,” said Joe Moore, Grapevine’s assistant director of Parks and Recreation. “You’ve got to think about the fact that many cities don’t have a lake in close proximity to their citizens.”
References: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Grapevine Area History,” “Images of America: Grapevine,” Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, Grapevine Historical Society, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Dallas Morning News historic archives