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Dallas Lake in Indiana's Northern Region is the perfect Mid-western lake. Located in a chain of five lakes sometimes called the Indian Lakes Chain, Dallas Lake has been a favored summer fishing and boating spot for over 150 years. This northern area of Indiana resembles its neighbor Michigan to the north with extensive wetlands and many small lakes. Many small streams connect lakes large and small throughout LaGrange County and flow westward to form the St Joseph River basin. The five lakes are connected by the Little Elkhart River near the headwaters of that same stream. The chain begins just a mile or so west of the town of Wolcottville. This area was originally the home of the Pottawatomie who were removed to the west by the United States Government in the late 1830s. Settlers immediately moved in to farm and engage in commerce. Wolcottville was platted in 1837 after George Wolcott built a sawmill and a grist mill upstream along the same creek. History doesn't record why this 283-acre lake is named Dallas Lake.
The Indian Lakes Chain is comprised of Westler, Witmer, Dallas, Hackenberg and Messick Lakes. A small un-named side tributary connects Hackenburg Lake to a second set of lakes including Oliver, Martin, and Olin Lakes a couple of miles away. When water leaves Messick Lake, the last in the chain, it eventually travels via the Little Elkhart River to a third chain of connected lakes - the West Lakes Chain. Eventually, the river joins the St Joseph River which drains into Lake Michigan. This is Indiana Lake Country at its finest, and most shorelines are lined with well-supplied summer cottages and year-round homes. Extensive wetlands surround many of the lakes and streams. Although the water levels in the Indian Lakes Chain are set by law, there is no dam directly affecting the lake levels. Instead, dams and water control structures on several streams, ditches and tributaries are opened and closed as flood control measures require.
Dallas Lake is one of two all-sports lakes in the chain. All types of watercraft are encouraged; jet skiing, water skiing and tubing are enjoyed on Dallas and Witmer Lakes. Pontooning and sailing are also popular activities here. Dallas Lake has no public boat launch, but can be accessed by boat from other lakes in the chain with access ramps. A 96-acre public park on the south shore of the lake contains a swimming area with lifeguards and a lovely wetland nature trail very popular with local visitors. A private campground on the west arm of the lake also allows non-property owners to enjoy the lake. The other three lakes in the chain are considered fishing lakes and boat speeds are limited. All five quiet water bodies are enjoyable for canoeing and kayaking. Water quality in the lake is good, and the Five Lakes Conservation Association works with State agencies to upgrade shoreline conditions and educate property owners on the best practices to maintain that condition. Evidence of their success can be seen in the resurgence of cisco fish, a species highly sensitive to water quality.
Fishing has long been an extremely popular activity at Dallas Lake. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources stocks fingerlings most years. Sport fishermen come here seeking largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, the occasional northern pike and the still unusual cisco. Winter brings ice fishermen who continue the pursuit until the spring thaw. Little Elkhart River is designated a trout stream, and fly fishermen often try their luck in the small tributaries entering the chain. A variety of wildlife visits the lake regularly, including many water birds and several kinds of ducks. Deer frequent undeveloped portions of the shoreline; rabbits and raccoons are a common sight. Only four miles from the town of Wolcottville, Dallas Lake has that 'lake community' feel, with neighborhood barbecues, lake association events and the occasional fishing derby. Most essential services can be found in Wolcottville, with a full range of amenities in picturesque LaGrange less than 15 miles to the north. LaGrange is the county seat of Amish country, and the trip west on US 20 out of town toward Shipshewana may be slow due to buggy traffic. The route between LaGrange and Elkhart is loaded with Amish businesses and attractions, including several picturesque bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants serving generous portions of old-fashioned Amish specialties.
A visitor to Dallas Lake will want to take time to enjoy both the tidy Amish farmsteads, always with a clothesline filled with family laundry, and stop in local shops where Amish woodworking products and crafts are offered for sale. Both the town of Topeka and Emma are heavily settled by Amish farmers, the first of which arrived here in the 1840s. Please drive carefully: their black buggies are hard to see and they are slow-moving.
If the visitor wishes to enjoy other outdoor activities around Dallas Lake, there are two golf courses within ten miles. And just five miles south of Wolcottville, the Gene Stratton Porter Historic Area has preserved the home and gardens of the famous author and naturalist. Her books and photographic works memorialized the native plants, birds and wildlife of the Limberlost Swamp, only a few miles south of Dallas Lake. A few miles further south, the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Preserve offers canoeing, fishing, camping and nature viewing along a water trail containing three old hydroelectric reservoirs. A tamarack bog offers a rare type of wetland experience; both sand hill cranes and ospreys are known to nest here.
Vacation rentals are located on Dallas Lake. Most are private family homes or cottages, usually with lake frontage. Bed-and-breakfasts and campsites are located within a short distance. Real estate is often available along the shoreline of the Indian Lakes chain. Only 40 miles from Fort Wayne and 60 miles from South Bend, Dallas Lake is an easy trip for a week-end or a summer vacation. So, bring the kids, the boat and the fishing tackle. You'll have a ball at Dallas Lake.
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