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Turtle Creek (Dallas County)

General Entry

Turtle Creek rises in north central Dallas in central Dallas County (at 32°51' N, 96°48' W) and flows southwest five miles, through Highland Park and University Park, to its mouth on the Trinity River (at 32°48' N, 96°50' W). The creek was named either by early settler James J. Beeman in 1842 or by some Texas survivors of an ill-fated Indian scouting expedition who camped on the creek in 1837. The stream has been "the most notable waterway in Dallas" throughout most of the city's history and runs through some of its most fashionable real estate. Fed by springs, it has never run dry, and it has long provided the city with both useful and pleasurable services. Early beautification by Henry Exall took the form of Exall Lake, which became the biggest resort in Dallas in the 1890s. At a different location, black baptismal ceremonies took place on Sunday afternoons. In 1909 the city's original water pump station was built on the creek, and the city park board acquired a 17½-acre private park (now Lee Park) there, since there was no public park in north Dallas at the time. In the next decade Turtle Creek figured prominently in George Kessler's city beautification plan, which included a system connecting all city parks. In 1959 the Dallas Theater Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was constructed in the woods on the creek. The city failed, however, to implement Kessler's and other plans, and controversy regarding the Turtle Creek area arose among the park board, city council, citizens, and developers. Though a confrontation in 1959 over widening Turtle Creek Parkway to six lanes resulted in a court action by citizens against the city, the successful road expansion and city work along the parkway set standards and policy for other city park maintenance and land acquisitions. The increase of developers' building requests along the creek prompted a city study to establish a policy for protection and development. In 1974 the city council unanimously approved a plan for a greenbelt along Turtle Creek near downtown Dallas to preserve open space in front of buildings facing the creek. Debate continued, however, regarding the nature and extent of development.


  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Turtle Creek (Dallas County),” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: