ESPANTOSA LAKE. Espantosa Lake, five miles northeast of Carrizo Springs in north central Dimmit County (at 28°35' N, 99°49' W), drains into Soldier Slough. The natural lake was once a campsite on the Old San Antonio Road. Perhaps because of a ghostly fog that frequently obscures the lake after dark, however, it was often avoided by travelers who feared its reputation as a haunted place of evil (espantosa is Spanish for "fearful," "horrid"). Many legends surround the place. Some center on wagonloads of gold and silver rumored to have been lost in the lake; others tell of apparitions of men said to have been murdered on its shores. One story says that the lake was once filled with alligators. In 1917 water from the Nueces River was diverted into the lake, and a dam was built to contain the flow for irrigation purposes. In 1990 the dam, operated by the Zavala-Dimmit County Water Control and Improvement District, impounded a reservoir with a capacity of 1,745 acre-feet. The lake covered 364 acres and was used for boating and fishing as well as irrigation.

John Clements, Flying the Colors: Texas, a Comprehensive Look at Texas Today, County by County (Dallas: Clements Research, 1984). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. Laura Knowlton Tidwell, Dimmit County Mesquite Roots (Austin: Wind River, 1984).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, "ESPANTOSA LAKE," accessed July 22, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox