THE STORY OF VETERANS LAKE
Years before the establishment of the Sulphur Springs Reservation, thousands of people came from around the country annually to visit the area camp and drink the healing waters.
Others came to enjoy the fishing and hunting the area offered. One of the favorite camping and fishing areas outside the reservation was Lowrance Lake.
Lowrance Lake was the only man-made lake for miles around. Located four miles south of Sulphur Springs, it was a favorite of sportsmen. What it lacked in size, it made up by the size and numbers of large fish caught there.
According to a June 27, 1935 Times-Democrat article, John D. Lowrance, who established the family ranch in 1884, built his ranch house near a gushing spring of clear, pure water.
In 1892, Mr. Lowrance decided to build a dam and lake one-quarter mile south of his home. He allowed the lake to be stocked naturally. One way this could be accomplished was that wading birds would wade through fertilized eggs in fish nest in other shallow waters, the sticky eggs would cling to their legs and they would then deposit the eggs when they landed in this new lake.
Years later when the government offered free fingerlings, O. K. Lowrance took advantage of the opportunity to re-stock the lake. Large mouth bass weighing over eight pounds, crappie and bream were plentiful in the lake in those days.
Fishing was permitted but it was still a private lake and there was no public lake in the area.
When Colonel Greene took charge as Superintendent of the Park in 1907, one of his first problems was dealing with the South Side of Sulphur. He wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior advocating the total annexation of the remaining South Side as well as an additional three square miles of land south of Bromide Hill for the purpose of building a public lake in the Park. As previously written, we will repeat Col. Greene's ideas here.
Greene suggested that it would be most reasonable to include lots 237 to 301, inclusively, in the South Side area. He also wanted all of sections 9, 10, and 11 included in the proposed land purchase. These three sections were south along the Park boundary.
These sections were included because Greene felt that there was actually very little to do in the Park except camp and drink water. He felt that there needed to be some amusements of some kind.
He proposed that the government build a lake on these sections and build clubhouses, boat houses, bathing beaches, artesian wells, a dam, sewer system, zoological garden, auto speedway, fish hatchery, and a nursery to grow trees and shrubs as well as an agricultural experiment station. The lake would contain a 1½-mile long rowing course, a three buoy sailing course four miles long and a shoreline of six to eight miles.
Greene recommended that the amusements be built with private money and the investors pay the government rent. He estimated that the cost of this project would be $86,000.
This included the area around the Lowrance Springs, Lowrance Lake and the headwaters of Buckhorn Creek. The cost of the land was estimated to be about $90,000. Supt. Greene endorses the project and writes to the Secretary that this is a real bargain since the government paid nearly a half million dollars for the 640 acres of the first segregation.
The Secretary rejected all ideas and that was the last of the plans of further purchases for Park. land.
Greene was a man of vision to say the least. The sections of land he wanted to purchase for the construction of a lake was the very land that Veterans Lake was built upon thirty years later.
The January 11, 1934 issue of the Times-Democrat published a front-page article about the possibility that a 300-acre lake might be built near Sulphur. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) would construct the lake.
Engineers did a preliminary survey of the area south of Bromide Hill and found a suitable spot for an earthen dam on Wilson Creek.
Carl Giles, state administrator of the CWA stated that all materials, labor and equipment would be furnished by the CWA if the citizens of Sulphur would purchase the land for the proposed lake.
A group of Sulphur men immediately launched a drive to gather the necessary funds to purchase the land. Pledges from each contributor for $100 were made. Some of the men who led the drive and pledged larger sums of money for the project were E. C. Frier, J. A. Seeton and Ameen Hassen.
In February 1934, word was received that the funds for the statewide CWA projects had been cut and there would not be enough money to start the new lake project. It was estimated that the cost of the materials for the new dam would be $10,000.
The problem was with the purchase of materials for projects. Originally, the most that could be spent for materials for any project was twenty-five percent of the total budget. Later this amount was cut to fifteen percent. The reason being that it was felt by those in Washington that it was more important to get the money into the hands of employees thus increasing the flow of money into the economy.
The estimated cost of the project, a 300-acre lake with a fifty-foot high dam, had now risen to $100,000.
Another sticking point was that the CWA did not feel that a clear title to all the land needed could be obtained. Local attorney John C. Powell worked to this end.
Local officials were given the task of reviewing the size and cost of the project with instructions to get the cost down to the range of $65,000. Citizens wanted the dam to be at least fifty feet high to create a lake of useful size. Their final cost estimates for a one hundred acre lake with a twenty-foot high dam came in at $68,000. Extra funds for materials were later received to build the much-desired higher dam.
An interesting point to note here is that on April 16, 1936, the Times-Democrat reported that a new program called the Washita Valley Soil Control Program had made recommendations for five new dams to be built along that river valley.
It was suggested that one of the dams be built between Sulphur and Dougherty where three tributaries of the Washita converge. This would be where Arbuckle Lake would be built some thirty years later.
Frank Lewis was appointed as supervisor of the WPA project and Roy B. Johnson was the construction supervisor. Construction on the lake began in 1935 and was fully completed in February of 1937.
By late summer of 1936 the lake has been completed enough to allow for the first speedboat races. A water polo contest, swimming and diving events were also held as well as bait and fly casting competitions.
In September of 1936, Brian Lattimore and the Isaak Walton League planted more than 5,000 fish, bass, crappie and bream, in Veterans Lake. The group continued seining streams and ponds that were going dry and transplanting the fish into Veterans.
In October of 1937, Veterans Lake was opened to duck hunting with shotguns. Seemed that some sportsmen were using rifles to shoot the creatures which was a no-no. Also in that month 800 bass, 1,000 channel cat, 1,500 Texas bream and 700 blue gills were stocked in the lake. The state wildlife department supplied the fish.
In January of 1939, the Isaak Walton League placed 500 trout in Veterans Lake. According to club president Brian Lattimore, by this time there had been more than one million fish stocked in the lake in the past four years. Lattimore claimed that Veterans Lake was the "best stocked" lake in Oklahoma.
The new lake covered 93 acres, was 73 feet deep in the middle and had a concrete spillway.
© by Dennis Muncrief - 2006