Lake Waco

Lake Waco is a reservoir and artificial lake which serves a variety of functions for the city of Waco. The dam was built in 1929 in order to control flooding of the Bosque River and to provide the city with a reliable water source. In 1961, a modern earthen dam replaced the original structure, increasing the surface area of the lake considerably from approximately two thousand seven hundred acres to around nineteen thousand four hundred acres. Today, lake is maintained by the US Army Engineering Corps and the Brazos River Authority.

The creation and subsequent enlargement of Lake Waco displaced several communities in the surrounding area. Many citizens were forced to move or abandon their homes or businesses, and the enlargement of the lake in the 1950s destroyed entire town sites such as the Speegleville community, a small farming town west of Waco. Many people felt that the lake distanced communities and destroyed the once tight-knit community atmosphere.

Though the lake’s primary purpose is to provide a reliable water source for Waco, it has also served as a center of recreational activity for many years. In the 1930s, the Waco Tribune-Herald described Lake Waco as a “mecca for hundreds daily in the summer,” providing more than just a beautiful sight but also a spot for social gatherings. Through the years, boating became a highly popular pastime on the lake. By the 1950s, it was typical to see the lake covered in boats and the shoreline dotted with swimmers and sunbathers.  

The construction of the new dam opened up conversation among the Waco community concerning the development of community centers around Lake Waco. Many citizens saw the lake as a matter of civic pride and desired to develop the services the park could offer the community. The US Army Engineering Corps encouraged the creation of features such as wildlife habitats and parks alongside the dam.

Four parks maintained by the corps surround Lake Waco: Airport Park, Midway Park, Reynolds Creek Park, and Speegleville Park. These parks offer facilities for camping and picnics and contain several boat ramps and two marinas. They also provide areas for activities such as water sports, hunting and fishing, boating, and hiking. The Lacy Point Nature Trail in Reynolds Creek Park is recognized in the National Trails System.  During the summer, educational programs are offered for the public on topics such as wildlife, lake history, and water safety.

The upper end of Lake Waco houses the Waco Wetlands, an environmental project established in 2001 to lessen habitat loss when the city raised the reservoir seven feet. This site, managed through cooperation between the city and Baylor University, serves as a living laboratory for research, education, and recreation.

At first a civic project, Lake Waco has become an important gathering point for the city through the educational and recreational benefits it offers the city.

 

Images

Planning Map of Lake Waco

Planning Map of Lake Waco

The construction of the new dam expanded the lake, covering a portion of the nearby town Speegleville. The new lake also interfered with Highway 6. In the 1960s, a bridge to accommodate highway traffic was added. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Souvenir Postcard

Souvenir Postcard

Although it is an artificial lake, there is no denying the natural beauty that surrounds Lake Waco. No doubt the creator of this postcard hoped to attract Sunday drivers and weary highway motorists alike to the pleasant shores of the lake. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Cruising Speed

Cruising Speed

Boating has been a popular pastime on Lake Waco since the 1930s. During the lake's early years, many observers noted that the surface of the lake seemed almost entirely covered by pleasure crafts. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred Marlar View File Details Page

Reel Appeal

Reel Appeal

Fishing quickly became a popular activity at Lake Waco due to the large amount of shore area designated for fishermen. More than fifty species of fish inhabit the lake, including bass, crapple, and catfish. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

A Real Treasure

A Real Treasure

Lake Waco is the largest lake in the United States to be located within a single city's boundaries. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Jana Johnson View File Details Page

Fun for the Whole Family

Fun for the Whole Family

As the average income of the American middle-class family increased in the mid-twentieth century, so too did their ability to invest in leisure activities. An afternoon spent boating at Lake Waco was likely made possible by this newfound level of material comfort. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

No Landlubbers Here

No Landlubbers Here

Sailing served as a popular pastime on Lake Waco for many years. This hobby was made unique by the fact that many patrons built their boats themselves before setting sail on the lake. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Of Reservoirs and Recreation

Of Reservoirs and Recreation

The leisure activities offered at Lake Waco extended its use beyond simple functionality. As the city took pride in the lake, it became known, according to the Waco Tribune Herald, as the "city's largest playground." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Audio

The Growth of Lake Waco

Patricia Cornett talks the growth of Lake Waco from the small lake she spent time at as a child in the 1950s. | Source: Cornett, Patricia Kennedy, interviewed by Brian Reed, November 21, 2008, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer, “Lake Waco,” Waco History, accessed May 30, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/44.

Related Tours

Share this Story