Back In Business!

Salmon Lake Re-opens

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – In perhaps the understatement of the year, summertime in East Texas is hot. For many years, area residents would flock to Salmon Lake to take a dip in the water to help beat back the scorching temperatures behind the Pine Curtain.

The Memorial Day weekend typically marks the beginning of summer, but this year saw rains arrive in late April and stay through the month of May. It rained so much, the water breached the dam at Salmon Lake and sent the lake rushing down towards the stage area.

By Tuesday morning, June 1, the lake was empty, the barge was overturned, the wheel-house was swept away and quiet frankly, it looked as if the erstwhile swimming hole might be gone for the summer, if not for good.

Surprisingly enough, through the efforts of Bartee Construction and the Grapeland community, the dam has been rebuilt, the lake has been refilled and the park re-opened for business earlier this week.

“Early Tuesday morning (June 1) is when it breached,” owner Trent Owens explained. “Thursday, we finalized details with Bartee Construction. Saturday, they were digging test bores for clay and Monday they started to work, but it rained and slowed them down somewhat. They were finished by Thursday and we shut the valve to fill it up on Friday. With the help of our neighbor – Brandon Bridges – he opened the valve on his dam and helped us fill this up. Normally, with the springs, it fills up in three to four days, but he was very gracious and said we could have some of his water to get it filled up faster.” And re

Owens stressed his appreciation to Bartee Construction for their efforts in getting the dam repaired in such a timely matter. He also expressed his gratitude to Vulcraft, a Division of Nucor.

“Bartee Construction was working a job at Vulcraft. I don’t know this for sure, but somebody had to give the okay for Bartee, who was working a job there, to stop that job and fix this for us. Then they went back. Somebody at Vulcraft said they could take care of us. I don’t know who it was, but I want them to know we are very thankful,” Owens said.

Owens and his wife, Bethany, said the outpouring of support from the Grapeland area and surrounding communities has been amazing.

“Now that we have this pretty much under control, we are going to start calling on volunteers to help get the rest of this cleaned up. People have been dying to help. We needed to get the big heavy machines out of the way,” he said.

One thing that may take a little bit to return is the barge that adorned the shore line near the dam.

“The barge was completely and utterly destroyed. We tried to pull it out in one piece. It was really old and the metal just wouldn’t hold up. We are working now and brainstorming. We would love to hear ideas from the community about what they would like. We have a lot of things on the table, from a jumping platform to a zip line into the water. It will kind of bring back some old school Salmon Lake stuff back,” he said with a laugh.

The lake officially reopened earlier this week and stays open 9 am until 8 pm for day use. Admission to the park is $5.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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