Touring Texoma: Lake Kemp

Over the next four weeks, Darrell Franklin's taking us back out on a tour of Texoma, to destinations that help piece together our fascinating heritage.

Our first stop is Lake Kemp, a fishing and recreational site 8- miles north of Seymour, now almost 90- years old.

It's a 25- thousand acre body of water when full that's still extremely important to the city of Wichita Falls.

From droughts to Golden Algae fish kills, Lake Kemp's had some tough times in recent history. But, there is still so much beauty, so much fun to be found at this lake.. that has so much history... while Touring Texoma.

Myra Busby: "We are 4- generations owning a cabin here... "

Myra Busby's the Managing Director of Seymour's Chamber of Commerce, who first starting coming out to Lake Kemp with her great grandparents and grandparents.

Now, she comes out with her grandson, Christian.

Busby: "We have lots of good times. We try to come out and see the sunset. He even reminds me, Mae Mae, it's the sunset time.  We're going to miss the sunset."

Busby: "All of my youth was spent on the lake and around the lake. Fish fries, and not just about Fish Day, but about family."

Ganes Edwards: "Everybody was glad to see it go in.. to have a lake this close to town you know."

93- year old Ganes Edwards was 6- years old when Lake Kemp was completed in the early 1920's, which dammed up the big Wichita River and still curbs flooding in Wichita Falls.

At the time, it was touted as the 7th largest artificial body of water in the whole world.

For sure, it was a source of great fun for people from all over.

Edwards: "Well, we fished, we boat road, we skied...... we......... I won't tell you everything we did out there."

A hotel that's now long- since gone was even built on the north end of the dam.

Edwards: "It was a party hotel." "It was? Did you go to it?" "No, I was too young........................ I wanted to but I was too young."

"Some of the older people have told me that before the lake filled, they built this, and then as the lake came up it floated."

And, in those days, fishing season opened on May 1st, which soon brought about the annual May 1st Celebration, now Fish Day.

Edwards: "Well, we'd all go out the day before and at midnight we'd start fishing."

Dorothy Morgan Howe: "Chili cook- outs, they had horseshoe tournaments, they had Little Miss Lake Kemp, boat races, and it was an all day affair."

Dorothy Morgan Howe's a curator at the Baylor County Museum in Seymour, and a life- long fan of Lake Kemp.

Howe: "Before they started having May 1st, we'd go on Sunday, and sometimes we'd go on Saturday and spend the night. And we roughed it. We spent the night, we roughed it. And, then we got a cabin and started spending the weekend with our friends.. and we had grandkids in the Little Miss Lake Kemp.. and there was a lot of people."

Charles Sessions/Baylor Co. J.P., Pct. 1: "That was what you did. You didn't sit home on your computer, and play your games. You'd go, once a week you'd go to the drive- in theater and go to the lake on the weekend."

And, Charles Sessions says to some extent, that still goes on today.

A total of around 600- cabins surround Lake Kemp, and it's still a destination for many, like Myra and Christian to come out and play.

Busby: "Oh, it's just great memories. You just have great memories when you can go and enjoy nature, and bring your grandchildren.. just like my grandparents brought me."

It's said Joseph Kemp walked the banks of the Wichita River and personally chose the site of two dams built for irrigation and flood control.

One might wonder if he ever imagined the lake that followed, named for him, would bring about so much joy.

Waggoner Ranch owns the surface land at Lake Kemp and sets the prices there, but water rights are owned by the city of Wichita Falls.

Today, the lake provides 13- to 15- percent of Wichita Falls' total water production.

And Utilities Operations Manager, Daniel Nix says for every million gallons of water taken from Kemp, that's a million less from Kickapoo and Arrowhead.

He says the Cypress Water Treatment Plant's new reverse osmosis capability could produce enough water from Kemp to serve Wichita Falls' basic needs should lakes Kickapoo and Arrowhead start going dry as they did in 2000.

As far as Seymour's annual Fish Day Festival In The Park, it's set for May 7th.

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