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LAKE WICHITA. Lake Wichita is an artificial lake three miles southwest of Wichita Falls in southeastern Wichita County and northeastern Archer County (at 33°51' N, 98°32' W). In the late 1890s Joseph Alexander Kemp, former county treasurer and Wichita Falls merchant, attempted unsuccessfully to raise money to construct a dam across the Wichita River. When he also learned that the Constitution of 1876 prohibited issuing bonds to support the building of an irrigation system, he went to Austin to lobby for a change in the law. But the bureaucratic process proceeded so slowly that he returned home and in 1900 organized the Lake Wichita Irrigation and Water Company. Shortly after this, he discovered the site that later provided the water supply for the city. Following a rain storm Kemp could not cross Holiday Creek. He traveled downriver looking for a place to ford and discovered a basin where the water had collected. Within months, construction of the lake began at this site. Residents of Bowman had to move to allow the water to fill the valley.
Lake Wichita, completed in 1901 at a cost of $175,000, has a surface area of 2,200 acres, a capacity of 14,000 acre-feet, and a drainage area of 143 square miles. In 1909 a trolley line connected the city of Wichita Falls with the lake, which featured a recreational area including the three-story colonnade pavilion. On August 2, 1912, at Dallas the Wichita Falls Water and Power Plant property, including the lake, was sold to a private business interest. Wichita Falls acquired the property by a bond issue on November 21, 1920. In 1921 the dirt dam was replaced by concrete.
Although the Lakeside Hotel burned in 1918 and was not rebuilt, the resort was popular for twenty years. Large crowds came on special days, and trains were run from towns including Fort Worth. In 1928 and 1929 the chamber of commerce sponsored carnivals. The lake subsequently declined as a resort, and the abandoned pavilion remained standing until 1955. In 1966 the city began selling some of the lake water to a nearby generating plant. The lake continues to serve as a source of water for residents of Wichita Falls.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Louise Kelly, Wichita County Beginnings (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982). Wichita Falls Times, May 15, 1957.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, "Lake Wichita," accessed April 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rol85.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.