History of Lake Tanglewood
The Village of Lake Tanglewood is now well established, a small community on the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River on the north end of Palo Duro Canyon. It is in the northeast corner of Randall County.
All that nature had to contribute was in place; but all the work of man was soon to come. The Lake was created by damming Palo Duro Creek. The community, a private, residential, year-round resort and home of over 400 families, was created primarily by the vision of one man, and then another, and then---many.
Lake Tanglewood is surrounded by the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon, and the water of the lake offers the best of family living--fishing, boating, swimming and water skiing. Residents also golf, admire the scenery and the abundant wildlife. But in the….well, here’s the way the two men most responsible remember the beginning.
“In the fall of 1956 I was working in the Palisades, just west of (what is now) Lake Tanglewood, and I drive east to the section line between the canyon about half a mile, and I viewed the beauty of the canyon I thought, ‘what a beautiful place to build a lake.’”
“I went back to the job and asked the man I was working for who owned the property just east of the Palisades. I was told the John and Hugh Currie owned the ranch.”
“I drove down to John Currie’s place and found Mr. Currie at home. I introduced myself and told him of my idea to build a lake above his home and east of the Palisades.”
That’s the way S.G. “Roy” Stockton remembered the beginning of Lake Tanglewood, first called Lake Stockton, in an account written later. Here’s another account by one who was present at the beginning, John Currie:
“In 1956 Stockton Construction, Inc., S.G. Stockton, supervisor, was doing construction work on a property adjoining the Currie Ranch. During this time, he made the observation that the beauty of the canyon would provide the setting for a beautiful lake.”
The idea was presented to John Currie, who enthusiastically agreed with him. Further discussions consummated a 99-year lease contingent upon the raising of certain finances for the first year. In 1959, after the option failed, another 99 year lease of similar nature was given. The year that followed was crucial, but Roy Stockton completed his finances against tremendous odds. The green light for dam construction was on.
Lake Stockton, Inc. included Mable Stockton, wife of Roy, and his two sons Richard and Sherman, all of whom made great contributions and sacrifices for the financing and building of Lake Stockton.
The canyon has furnished shelter for Indians, perhaps for the expedition of Francisco Vasques de Coronado in 1541, and certainly for the cattle of Charles Goodnight and John Adair, who founded JA Ranch that included the canyon.
STOCKTON: “If I had listened to the lawyers and bankers, I would not have ever built the dam and spillway. Of course, I understand the wisdom of bankers, that you should have the money in the bank before you ever start a project. But being a poor boy all my life, I figured out a way to ‘poorboy’ this thing through; and with the Lord’s help, we did it.”
CURRIE: “With the continued efforts of Roy Stockton, the construction moved forward against all odds. The lake has a watershed of ninety-nine sections, and Stockton was advised by engineers that it would take two years to fill the lake.”
STOCKTON: “Freeze and Nichols, Engineers, the ones who designed and built the dam and spillway, said that this spillway was built closer to specifications than any other they had ever designed. John Currie could not have been more cooperative and helpful than he was, in more ways than one.”
“When the first rent payment came due before the dam and spillway were complete, he knew we did not have the money to pay him, so he postponed the starting date for six months or so, and when the starting date came around again, we were still short of money, so he postponed the starting date again.”
“We could not have made it without John’s help in postponing the starting dates and allowing the late payments from time to time. John is the best friend this lake ever had. He could have made it hard on us if he had insisted on following the contract to the letter.”
“The first rent payments were made by giving lots at face value that John Currie graciously accepted. I started raising money by taking a commitment on a lot to be paid when we reached a certain amount.”
Stockton then formed a corporation and let a contract for the dirt work.
Stockton: “The work progressed satisfactorily until June, when we had the most rain on record since they began keeping records in 1880, 9.85 inches.”
Currie: “In June, 1961, the lake filled in three hours after almost ten inches of rain fell on this watershed. Water began flowing over the unfinished dam at 11 a.m. and washed out a large section of the dam at 2 p.m.
Stockton: “We did not have the dam high enough to put water over the spillway. We lacked about 6 inches having it high enough. We had made arrangement for a flood from the beginning of the dirt work, but we were not able to handle the type of flood that came that morning. We thought the dam would hold all the water that would come down the creek, but we were sadly mistaken.”
“The lake filled up in three hours and started to go over the dam about 11 a.m., and 2 p.m. that afternoon, the dam broke and the lake emptied in about an hour and created the biggest flood in the history of Palo Duro Canyon. Luckily, no one was hurt.”
Currie: “The future of Lake Stockton seemed impossible with the loss of financial backing and with criticism from many people. But Roy Stockton never lost faith; he was determined to complete the project. He solicited the help of P. B. Taylor, Stanley Crowe, Boyd Hinton, Gene Harris, L. E. Van Doren and others. Without the help of these men, the future of the lake was in question.”
Stockton: “Several people thought that would be the end of the project, but we never stopped working. We just jumped back in as soon as it dried up enough for us to work and kept going until the dam was completed.”
Currie: “Early in 1962 the dam was completed and the spillway was under construction. Roy Stockton and his family concentrated on supervision of all projects. Roads and bridges were built adjoining surveyed lots. Lot sales progressed even more with the drilling of water wells and the construction of a nine-hole golf course", now a eighteen-hole golf course.
Another milestone was the construction of the Sanddrift Restaurant on the lot farthest east on North Shore Drive early in 1963. A year later, the building was given to Lake Stockton by John Currie and was moved to the present clubhouse location. During this year the lake filled, “and there appeared a most beautiful body of water surrounded by cottonwood trees and cedar-covered bluffs.”
So ended the accounts of Mr. Stockton and Mr. Currie of the beginnings of Lake Tanglewood, but of course the true beginning took place long before, perhaps ninety million years before. The canyon that holds Lake Tanglewood is an upstream section of Palo Duro Canyon formed through “at least four geologic ages” by water erosion of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.