GREAT LAKE

They’re all around us, but at some you can’t see the water for the weekenders. Here’s a guide to the best bodies of water in the Dallas and Fort Worth area - plus some to avoid.

Now, at the peak of summer, the Dallas commuter corps reverses itself on weekends as everyone heads for”the lake.’’ Highways become river parades of boats, and marinas and bait shops prepare for the crush of visitors. The local lake boom is on. Swimming is the main attraction at these lakes; boating is next. But not all lakes can adequately provide every kind of facility for everyone that visits. Some can’t provide any.

Instead of playing hit-or-miss looking for the best activities on each lake, we decided to look for the best lake for each activity. After intensive questioning, many calls, and a lot of miles logged, here are the results.

BEST PICNICKING POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE



The most important element for a really satisfactory picnic, except for the food itself, is the attractiveness of the site. Possum Kingdom is easily the prettiest of the northeast Texas lakes, well worth the drive (slightly over 100 miles from Dallas), even for a one-day affair. The parks on the eastern side of the lake are terribly overcrowded on weekends, but great during the week. If you’re going on a weekend, try Possum Kingdom State Park on Park Road 33, eighteen miles north of Caddo. Its 1,615 acres provide everything except possums. Admission is $1.

Route: From 1-20 west, branch off on U.S. 180 to Texas 16 paralleling the eastern shore or to Park Road 33 on the southwestern end.

BEST SWIMMING – LAKE BRIDGEPORT



A summer trip to any lake quickly proves swimming to be the most popular water sport. The swimming’s good at most lakes, but it’s at its best at Lake Bridgeport. The newest lake in the area, carefully and scenically landscaped. The water is clean and cool, and this may be the only lake in Texas that doesn’t have stickers on the beaches. It’s almost entirely privately owned, and used as a residential lake for the many developments around it. Recreation, including swimming, is packaged in lakeside resorts and marinas with admission averaging $1-$1.50. They are well-equipped and maintained. The one free park is Wise County Park on FM 2952. Swimming, nature and bike trails, even the services of a park naturalist are available.

Route: Texas 114 goes west all the way to the lake.

BEST FISHING LAKE HOLBROOK

I visited Lake Holbrook early on a Wednesday morning, when there should be nothing going on. What I found were four local anglers at each bridge, and several more along the shore. This certainly says something for the fishing there. It’s a beautifully wooded, quiet lake of only 635 acres with a pervasive peaceful stillness. It is generously stocked with channel catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie.

Most of the shoreline is taken up in private home lots, but odds are there’s some good fishing off of those bridges. Wood County operates a park at lakeside, presumably the one referred to by the sign on U.S. 69 that says “Lake Holbrook Recreation Area.” This road leads to a confusing maze of unmarked roads which, at least, afford some good views of the lake.

Route: U.S. 80 east, then north on 69 is the interesting way to go. 1-20 to 69 is the fast way.

BEST ALL-AROUND LAKE TEXOMA

Over nine million people visit the 580 miles of Lake Texoma shoreline every year, probably because there are 89,000 acres of water with 57 campgrounds, 110 picnic areas, 80 boat ramps, 100 shelters, and 10,000 registered boats. The Texas shoreline boasts ten campgrounds with fishing, grills, boat ramps and rentals, swimming, and playgrounds.

Fishing is the main attraction. Texoma is generously stocked with black bass, crappie, sand bass, and lunker catfish. There are even enclosed air-conditioned docks. Boat fishing and swimming along the hundreds of coves and inlets in the lake draw visitors all year round.

If you’re not the water-skiing type, visit the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on the Big Mineral Arm of the reservoir. From U.S. 69/75 take FM 120 west 6.5 miles, FM 1417 south 2.1 miles to a local road, then west 6 miles. No admission charge. Or you might try the Cross Timbers hiking trail, beginning at Juniper Point Recreation Area and overlooking 14 miles of the southern end of the lake.

Route: Head north on U.S. 75 to 75A. Reservoir maps and more information are available at the project headquarters on the south end of the dam.

BEST DIVING LAKE WHITNEY



You won’t prove it by me, but the divers who come to Lake Whitney will verify that you don’t have to go to the Gulf coast for scuba diving. Diving is not a big sport on inland lakes, but Whitney’s clear depths of up to a hundred feet are amply suited to it. Divers must be certified. Seven parks line the shores of the lake; try Lake Whitney State Park on the eastern shore.

Route: Go south on 1-35 E to Texas 22, west to FM 1244.

BEST SAILING – WHITE ROCK LAKE

You’ve seen them every weekend of the year, in all colors, shapes and sizes. Except for cruising on Lawther Drive, sailboating is the sport at White Rock Lake. The city does not allow swimming, water skiing, or motor boats with over l01/2 horsepower, so the sailboats own the lake. And sailors say that if you’ve never seen White Rock from the middle of the lake, you can’t appreciate how beautiful it really is.

Three clubs – Corinthian Sailing Club, White Rock Sailing Club, and Snipe Club – offer boat storage, weekend rescue patrol, and good competition with weekly regattas and races. Initial fee averages $50, with annual dues about $45. These clubs have several of the nation’s champion racers on the water, and veterans are glad to help out newcomers to the sport.

Route: Lawther Drive is reached from Loop 12 (Northwest Highway) or Texas 78 (Garland Road).

BEST BOATING AND SKIING CEDAR CREEK RESERVOIR



You can’t go wrong on a lake shaped like a pencil. Cedar Creek sprawls over 33,750 acres of water, twenty-five miles long by less than three miles wide. There are marinas, charging around 50¢ for boat launch, at each end of the FM 85 bridge over the lake. Space is wide open for water skiing. Post oaks and pines surrounding the lake hint of East Texas, although it is barely an hour’s drive east.

Route: U.S. 175 from Dallas, then either Texas 274 or FM 90 south to FM 85.

WORST LAKES

Lake Lewisville. It’s so big, so well-equipped, and so ugly. Typical of a “city lake,” the beaches look uniformly tired, many are dirty, and most are overcrowded. With 23,280 acres there is plenty of room for boaters and water skiiers to enjoy the middle of the lake, where the water is not quite so gray. By the way, it is not called Lake Dallas – that’s the name of a town – and it’s no longer Garza-Little Elm.

Bardwell Lake. Never heard of it? Understandable. There’s not much to hear about. It’s not ugly, it’s pointless. Thirty-five miles south of here, there is a lake that may as well not exist. You can drive right over it, and five minutes later you’ve forgotten it. Blessed amnesia.



Lake Worth. Bad because, like Lewisville, it has all the trademarks of a city lake. The combination of negligible facilities, considerable industry, and a size one-seventh that of Lewisville makes one wonder why any city would claim it.

Lake Ray Hubbard. Its excuse is that it is the municipal water supply for Dallas. But as long as it’s there, couldn’t they do something with it? At least they could pull out all those trees to make the boating safer, if unexciting. There are some picnic areas (yawn), a few camping sites, and for reasons beyond us, a lot of housing development. Wouldn’t you really rather go to Texoma?

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