The history of Raleigh, NC landmark Lake Wheeler

The pier at Lake Wheeler Park’s boat ramp. | Photo by RALtoday

The pier at Lake Wheeler Park’s boat ramp. | Photo by RALtoday

From being known as a favorite recreational spot for locals, to being one of Wake County’s major water suppliers, Lake Wheeler has become an important landmark in the City of Oaks.

Completed in 1956, this man-made lake was created as a recreational location for the community and a source to help regulate water flow to Lake Benson, which provides water to the Dempsey Benton Water Treatment Plant to be used for the area’s utilities system. Any Raleighties out there remember seeing the lake get made?

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“That was the whole idea, to have a primary water resource — thinking futuristic back in the early 50s, and then eventually in the 80s to actually making it a primary water resource,” Chris Murray, Lake Wheeler park manager told RALtoday.

But in 1964, the park was small and didn’t have much for visitors to do.

“They had access roads, small concession areas, and picnic tables,” Chris said. “So it was kind of a smaller, low impact park for people to come and use.”

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To make the park more appealing as a recreation spot, a master plan was created to gradually develop the area over a three phase process. The process included landscaping and beautification, updating the access roads, and constructing the park’s program center.

“Phase one was in 1989 when they started developing more access roads to make it more user friendly, the entranceway, landscape, and beautification [were implemented],” Chris said. “Then there was a phase towards continued building and landscaping the area and adding field picnic areas.”

Additional covered shelters and bathrooms were also added during this phase. Phase three was completed in 1996 when the waterfront programs center was constructed.

Today, Lake Wheeler remains as the main water source to the city of Raleigh through Lake Benson as well as a bustling recreational park with a variety of ways to get involved.

“It is an access to the outdoors providing to community, families, individuals, and outdoor enthusiasts — either first time or experienced — a gateway to one recreation, whether your recreation is boating on the waterway, or it’s a nature escape to observe waterfowl animals or fish,” Chris said.

Visitors of Lake Wheeler can make their way around the walkway, paddle up and down the mile-long lake, play volleyball in the sandbox court, or take the kids to the playground.

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The park’s large fields, shelters, and comfort stations also make it a great place for hosting events like corporate parties, reunions, and meetings.

“That’s what it’s here for,” Chris said. “It’s for the community to have access to the water, and access to outdoor experiences.”

To learn more about Lake Wheeler and the amenities it has available for summer, check out their website.

— Contributed by Abigail Ali

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