Lake Corpus Christi State Park, a 356-acre park located in San Patricio, Jim Wells and Live Oak counties, southwest of Mathis, was leased from the city of Corpus Christi in 1934 (until 2032) and was opened in 1934. Many of the park's facilities were built by the during the 1930s. The 21,000-acre lake was formed by damming the Nueces River.
In January 1929, a reservoir called Lake Lovenskiold was created in this valley with the construction of La Fruita Dam across the Nueces River, which washed out in November that same year. The dam was rebuilt in 1935 with federal funds provided by President Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the name changed to Lake Corpus Christi.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Company 886 developed the 365-acre Lake Corpus Christi State Park between 1934 and 1935 on a cove where San Patricio, Jim Wells and Live Oak counties converge. CCC buildings included a bathhouse, park residence and a refectory, but only the refectory remains. This Mediterranean-style building was built of cast blocks of local caliche. The blocks were cast in various sizes and laid in a random-ashlar pattern, closely resembling cut limestone.
By the 1940s, as the new reservoir lost storage capacity from silting, it became evident that a new and larger dam and reservoir would be necessary. Opposition to the new dam by landowners in the proposed flood pool resulted in litigation that delayed construction for many years. The local water supply district finally won a favorable court decision, and the present dam was completed in 1958. Named in honor of Wesley E. Seale, chairman of the Lower Nueces River Water Supply District, the new dam made Lake Corpus Christi one of the largest artificial bodies of water in Texas. It covers 21,000 acres, with a capacity of 300,000 acre feet at the spillway elevation of 94 feet above sea level.
- More information on CCC construction at Lake Corpus Christi State Park from The Look of Nature: Designing Texas State Parks During the Great Depression
Area History: The present site of Lake Corpus Christi State Park overlooks an impoundment of the Nueces River, which was the disputed boundary between Texas and Mexico after the Texas Revolution. The Rio Grande became the boundary at the end of the war between the two nations, officially making this area a part of Texas. Once inhabited by Karankawa and Lipan Apache Indians, this area became the site of several settlement attempts in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1858, the town of Lagarto, now a ghost town a few miles northwest of the park, evolved from a Mexican settlement of grass-thatched huts. Today, there are a few remains of this town, which began to steadily decline when its leaders rejected the building of a railroad through the community in 1887.