Review: The Old Fish Hatchery is located along the White Rock Lake trail, in a forested area at the southern edge of the lake. It consists of a grid of trails separated by the old cells or open spaces for the hatchery operations. This 50 acre space is home to wildlife including a colony of Monk Parakeets.
Distance: Unclear, although i saw one reference to it being approximately 2 miles of trails
Area of Town: East Dallas, next to White Rock Lake
Facilities: None at the Hatchery, but there are restrooms and amenities along the greater lake trail
Suitable for: Hiking, bird watching
Type of Trail: Natural Trails
Shade: This is a very shady area, aside from the area that Oncor destroyed when clear cutting
Where to Park: There is a parking space near the White Rock Lake spillway, near Garland Road and Winsted Dr. You can also park just beyond the Santa Fe Trail bridge, if you continue down Winsted.
Official Website: N/A, there is very little information about this section
Nearby Trails: White Rock Lake Trail
The Old Fish Hatchery at White Rock Lake is something I’ve biked by a thousand times while riding at White Rock Lake. I’ve often rode past the entrance and wondered what lay behind those gates, but bikes aren’t allowed in that space, and I don’t often go to the lake without my bike. There also isn’t a lot written about it in general. I can’t find any maps online listing the layout, i just knew it lay south of the Pump House, in that space where the trails diverge either going along the steep dam or away from the lake before it winds back along the southern edge of the lake.
Recently, there was a great controversy about the damage that ONCOR did to this land, when they drastically clear cut the space. The outcry made the news, and ONCOR promised never to do this again, even though it has happened in the past. Another example of how critical it is to protect these natural spaces. More on what happened here. There are restoration efforts in process, so please avoid the damaged areas to not impact the restoration plans. When i visited, i did not encounter any of the damaged areas, but from the photos I have found of those areas, it should be very clear if you do.
Again, i haven’t found much information at all when looking for information, and I even reached out to the Friends of White Rock Lake, but never heard anything. Apparently the hatchery was started in 1930, and then ceased to operate in 1936, and the grounds returned to their natural state as nature reclaimed the area. This 50 acre space is very wooded, and is home to many species of wildlife. Hawks, owls, a colony of parakeets and more all make this place their home. Bobcats, beaver, fox and coyotes have also been spotted here. While I visited i did hear songbirds and woodpeckers going about their business, although I didn’t see any of them.
The Hatchery grounds lie behind gated doors, just east of the parking lot near the spillway. The grounds are laid out in a grid fashion, with sunken grounds between the trails, evidence of the prior hatchery. I did encounter a couple at a bench, but after that I did not encounter anyone else as I wandered. I mainly kept to the eastern side, i believe the damage is on the western side, and just wandered through the trails, without any rhyme or reason. I wound up at the dam, and there is a gravel road that runs along the lower section of the dam, which you can take back to the Pump House or back out towards the southern edge of the White Rock Lake trail.
The trails were definitely on the wilder side, and i had to duck under fallen trees or under heavy brush. Some paths were blocked to me, forcing me to backtrack. It felt very remote as I explored, as I left the sounds of the city and other lake users behind. Just the sounds of birds singing and woodpeckers pecking.
In trying to find out more information, i did find one website from 2014 advising people not to enter alone. I never felt unsafe in the Old Fish Hatchery grounds, but had something happened to me, I’m not sure it would have been easy to find me or for people to come to my aid. The dam is steep, and the underbrush is thick. Use appropriate caution when exploring, but this is always a good rule of thumb wherever you are.
Again, this is a spot I’ve rode past many many times as I’ve biked the lake, so it was fun to finally enter those gates and see what lay behind. Be careful if you get off the trails, there are remnants of the old fish hatchery, I found sections of concrete, and I wouldn’t be surprised if rebar or other metal structures are in the sunken areas between the trails.