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Grapevine Is Water Play Land in Northern Texas

April 10, 1988|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — Sailboats drift across an area that's part of the ranch land of northern Texas, where there are historic trails named Chisolm, Longhorn and Roundup. Windsurfers carve their own trails. In the marinas, masts sway gently with the afternoon breeze.

Is this a mirage?

It might seem so, especially if you awake from dozing as your plane descends toward a landing at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the blue waters of a lake drift into view.

Water Sports Capital

But the fact is, the vintage village of Grapevine and its lake have become the windsurfing and sailboat capital of north Texas.

As one proof of this, the Catalina 22 National Sailing Championships will be held on Lake Grapevine June 21-23. The event, sanctioned by the Catalina National Assn., is drawing entries from all across the United States.

The play land also includes a center of country music, "Nashville West," and three championship golf courses, one designed by the legendary Byron Nelson.

Sailing and windsurfing events are held all year. If you don't arrive with your own gear to compete, equipment can be rented at the marinas.

A deep lake with many inlets, 19 miles long and 2 1/2 wide at its greatest width, Grapevine is regularly stocked for sport fishing, with striped and large-mouth bass, crappie, catfish and bream.

A Midway Point

Historic Grapevine and its lake are within the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, at a midway site 21 miles from downtown Dallas and 19 miles from downtown Fort Worth.

With a population of fewer than 25,000, Grapevine boasts an airport that is the largest in the continental United States. 30 regional, national and international airlines land there. Few passengers realize that they are landing in Grapevine. Yet they could reach a secluded Hilton resort beside the lake within 10 minutes after picking up a rental car.

Grapevine's history began on Oct. 9, 1844, when Sam Houston and commissioners representing the 8-year-old Republic of Texas met with leaders of several Indian tribes at Tah-Wah-Karro Creek, also known as Grape Vine Creek, to sign a treaty of "peace, friendship and commerce."

One of the interpreters at the meeting was Jesse Chisolm, for whom would be named the Chisolm Trail that was soon to become the commercial artery for cattle moving across Texas.

An Annual Grapefest

The name for the town of Grapevine was assured when early settlers arriving by wagon trains began to grow mustang grapes. The annual Grapefest will be celebrated in November, right after the Transgrape Long Distance Sailing Race.

The lake was a latecomer to Grapevine, an idea conceived by its residents for flood control, water storage and conservation. After authorization by Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers in 1948 began construction of the Grapevine Dam at the Denton Creek tributary of the Trinity River. Renovated four years ago, it provides a vital service to Dallas and to agriculture in the river valley.

Recreation and lake sports, as well as the fish and wildlife habitats within the Metroplex, are extra dividends. For six weekends in the spring, except for Easter, and six weeks of Saturday evenings beginning in June, the Grapevine Sailing Club sponsors races for sailors and windsurfers are on the lake almost every day of the year.

Extensive Parks

Within the extensive park system of Grapevine are public tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, football and soccer fields, jogging and biking trails, a swimming pool, playgrounds and picnic facilities.

A self-guided walking tour of downtown covers nearly 40 historic sites, some that date back to right after the signing of the peace treaty. They have been carefully preserved, and most are still in use for community services, from grocery stores to the post office. The Grapevine Historical Museum and Calaboose was once the depot for the St. Louis and Texas Railroad.

The Grapevine Opry, home of nationally recognized country musical entertainment, was an early movie house, then a hay barn. In the early 1970s a few country acts began making appearances in the building.

That was when the revered Aunt Susie became involved. She was otherwise known as Mrs. R. I. Slaughter, whose vast fortune came from Texas oil. One evening she attended a show and was given one of the few seats still judged capable of being used. It promptly collapsed and dumped her onto the floor. She dusted herself off, stayed for the show, bought the building and put more than $1 million into its renovation.

Further upgraded in recent years, the Grapevine Opry has become a step to stardom for such country music talents as Ernest Tubb, Brenda Lee and The Studds. The foot-stomping shows are on Saturday evenings at 7:30.

Close by on Main Street in the historic district are antique and craft shops and restaurants with cuisines that vary from seafood and barbecue to Mexican and Chinese.

The Hyatt Regency, within the airport acreage, also operates the Bear Creek Golf and Racquet Club, which has two top-rated golf courses. Greens fees are $13 weekdays, $26 weekends. With reduced weekend hotel rates, a family of four can overnight at the Hyatt for $59. Call toll-free (800) 228-9000.

The Hilton Resort is in a wooded retreat beside Lake Grapevine and Grapevine Golf Course, often called the best municipal golf course in the nation. Greens fees are $10 weekdays and $12 weekends.

The hotel has a tennis club, a jogging trail through the woods, a terraced lakeside pool and private Lake Hilton, stocked for fishing and popular for after-dinner walks along the shore.

Weekend overnights for a family of four are $49. During the week, doubles are $114. Call toll-free (800) 645-1019.

For more information, contact Carla Bandera at the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, 909 S. Main St., Grapevine, Tex. 76051. The toll-free number from outside Texas is (800) 338-6338.

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