Photo by Tim Rogers

Nature & Environment

Why You Really Can’t Swim in White Rock Lake

Yes, yes. There's the trash and the E. coli. But there's a historical reason, too.

Today’s print version of the Dallas Morning News brings us another installment of Curious Texas, the series of explainer stories tackling stuff that, um, needs explaining. This one attempts to answer the question “Why Is Swimming Not Allowed at Some Dallas-area Lakes?” There’s nothing wrong about the answer the paper provided. At White Rock Lake, for example, silt and trash and E. coli all present natatorial hazards. But the paper’s answer is incomplete.

Some history: back in 1953, folks used to swim in White Rock Lake all the time. There’s a reason the Bath House is called the Bath House. Then a drought forced the closure of the lake to swimming as the city drew its drinking water from that body. When the drought ended, the lake could have reopened to swimmers, but White segregationists were like, “Wouldn’t all you Black folks rather have your own community pools?”

I wrote about this in 2003, when I bravely swam across the lake to prove a point. If you’ve got five minutes to kill, knock yourself out.

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