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Wichita Falls the Gateway to Texas

The City of Wichita Falls, Texas is comfortably nestled in the North-East corner of the Panhandle/Plains area of North Texas. By most accounts, Wichita Falls can be summed up with two words, pleasant and comfortable. This is a family-oriented city conveniently located within two hours of two metropolitan areas with populations exceeding one million citizens: Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. Wichita Falls has a population of approximately 104,553 and is the county seat of Wichita County.

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    Transportation

    Wichita Falls Regional Airport is serviced by American Airlines with connecting flights to DFW. Kickapoo Airport serves the general aviation needs of small jets and helicopters. The Travel Center handles the travel needs of bus passengers. It is serviced by Greyhound Bus Travel. The Wichita Falls Transit System, Falls Ride, provides public transportation for the City of Wichita Falls and its residents.

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    Location

    Wichita Falls is about 15 miles south of the Oklahoma border, 115 miles northwest of Fort Worth, and 140 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. It has one of the largest freeway mileages for a city of its size. It is the western terminus for Interstate 44. Highways leading to or through Wichita Falls include 287, 277, 281, and 82. State Highway 240 ends at Wichita Falls and State Highway 79 runs through it.

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    Population

    Wichita Falls has a population of approximately 104,553, making it the 38th-most populous city in Texas. It is home to Sheppard Air Force Base, which houses the Air Force's largest technical training and Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world's only multi-nationally staffed and managed flying training program to produce combat pilots for both USAF and NATO.

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    Climate Info

    The hottest month is usually August with average temps of 97°F. Temperatures have hit 117 °F. The coldest month is January with average temps of 43 °F. Snowfall is sporadic and averages 4.1 in. The wettest month is usually June with an average of 1.44" of rain. Wichita Falls receives an average of 9.02" per year. The windiest month is probably April with an average wind speed of 11 mph.

You’ll find considerable cultural activities from the symphony to good old Texas rodeos. Wichita Falls prides itself on having something for everyone. The City has a wonderful twenty-mile-long trail system that winds through neighborhoods and along attractive streams and lakes for use by walkers, joggers, bicycles, and rollerbladers and an additional parks system featuring 39 parks within the city limits. The parks are great for family outings with spacious picnic shelters, playgrounds, nature trails, duck ponds, and more.

You can also enjoy the Wichita Falls ballet troupe, museums, symphony, community theaters featuring everything from Shakespeare to rock concerts, professional hockey, skate park, newly renovated municipal golf course, college football and basketball, festivals and fairs, water park, family entertainment centers, nearby lakes and mountains, and a Multi-Purpose Event Center with convention facilities, 10,000 seat arena, agriculture building and more.

Wichita Falls offers year-round entertainment and activities that are guaranteed to keep you and your family as busy as your schedule will allow.

The City also has several institutions of higher learning, and a community spirit geared toward family, friends, and a desire to see that this thriving city continues to grow and prosper. Our award-winning public school system and institutes of higher education are exemplary.

The Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD) serves the North Texas community of Wichita Falls. The District operates four early childhood campuses, 16 elementary campuses, three middle schools, three high schools, and three alternative campuses. The District also operates the Career Education Center, a state-of-the-art facility completed in 2017. Here, students are trained in one of 26 career pathways. Each provides students with a multitude of post-graduation opportunities. Two new state-of-the-art high schools are currently under construction.

Midwestern State University is heralded throughout the state for its medical, teaching, business, and liberal arts programs. The 255-acre campus is nestled among the city’s residential area and comprises 70 buildings, numerous playing fields, and an outdoor recreational facility near Sikes Lake.

Wichita Falls proudly calls itself the home of the finest military installation in the country, Sheppard Air Force Base. Through Sheppard’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, Wichita Falls has a significant international flavor. The program is utilized by seventeen different NATO countries for the finest fighter pilot training in the world.

There is a considerable international investment in the area’s manufacturing base as well. The greater Wichita Falls area has 185 manufacturing companies producing products for major automotive manufacturers, oil and gas production, construction, aircraft manufacturers, food service providers, water recreation, and more. Within a 60 mile radius of Wichita Falls, there are more than 393,000 people of which approximately 152,000 are in the workforce.

Wichita Falls also offers state-of-the-art medical facilities and services that have made it the health care choice of residents throughout North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. Along with excellent healthcare, the City has a lower than average cost of living with affordable, quality housing ranging from apartments to mansions.

History of Wichita Falls

Legend of poker game winnings by John A. Scott
According to legend, the land where downtown Wichita Falls is presently located, in southeast Wichita County, was acquired in a poker game by John A. Scott of Mississippi in 1837. He packed away the certificates and promptly forgot them. Years later, the certificates were rediscovered by Scott's heirs, who commissioned M. W. Seeley to map out a townsite on the Wichita River tract. In July 1876, the townsite, as platted by Seeley, included a small waterfall on the Wichita River that was later washed away.
Fort Worth and Denver Railway arrives September 27, 1882
From 1881 to 1882, the residents of Wichita Falls induced the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company, then building tracks west out of Fort Worth, to run the line through the town by offering substantial property concessions along the right-of-way. The arrival of the first train on September 27, 1882, triggered a boom in the sale of town lots.
Joseph Alexander Kemp, a found father, arrives
Joseph Alexander Kemp, later to become one of the most prominent of the town's promoters, arrived in 1883 and soon established a general merchandise store.
Wichita Falls becomes County Seat
Wichita Falls became the county seat of Wichita County in November 1883. It was officially incorporated on July 29, 1889, and the first meeting of the town council occurred on August 21, with Mayor Otis T. Bacon presiding.
Lake Wichita Project
The Lake Wichita project was begun in 1900 and completed the following year. It was the primary source of water for drinking and irrigation. By 1909 Wichita Falls boasted thirty miles of sidewalk, five miles of sewers, and more than 100 businesses. A streetcar system also appeared; it featured an extension to Lake Wichita that made the lake a recreation center. Soon a hotel, a domed pavilion, a racetrack, a boardwalk, and vacation cottages sprang up. The lake remained the center of recreational activity for the city until World War I, even though the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1918. The abandoned pavilion burned in 1955.
Oil Boom
By 1913 the North Texas fields were producing 46 percent of all the oil in Texas, and refineries began to appear in Wichita Falls in 1915. The discovery of the Burkburnett fields in 1918 triggered an actual boom. Bank deposits increased by 400 percent in 1919, and oil-related industries increased dramatically. By 1920 there were nine refineries and forty-seven factories within the city. The oil boom also produced a building boom.
The Littlest Skyscraper
The Newby–McMahon Building, commonly referred to as the world's littlest skyscraper, is located at 701 La Salle (on the corner of Seventh and La Salle streets) in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. It started out innocently enough, but then most swindles do. In 1919, Wichita Falls was a crowded place. While area businessmen were enjoying the first of several region-wide oil booms, offices were located wherever space could be found, and “ coat pocket” business addresses were as common as anything made of bricks and mortar. Investors practically stood in line to buy stock in a construction project proposed by a Philadelphia building engineer, the plain-looking tenant of the Newby Hotel, a man whose given name has been lost to history. He probably was a genuine building engineer or he could never have presented his $200,000 project so convincingly! Contracts were signed, money changed hands and construction began on the lot next door to the clever visionary’s hotel address. Trouble was, none of the investors seemed to notice that the Philadelphian’s blueprints, which called for dimensions measured in square feet, were actually executed in square inches until after the property, still standing after 80-plus years, was finished. By then, the Easterner had long checked out of the hotel, taking the bulk of his ill-gotten $200,000 along. During the 1920s, the Newby–McMahon Building was featured in Robert Ripley's Ripley's Believe It or Not! syndicated column as "the world's littlest skyscraper," a nickname that has stuck with it ever since. The Newby–McMahon Building is now part of the Depot Square Historic District of Wichita Falls, a Texas Historic Landmark.
Wichita Falls 1930
The Federal census determined Wichita Falls was the 10th ranking city in Texas with a population of 43,607. There were thirty-two parks, forty-seven churches, four railroads, twenty schools, and 118 industrial establishments. The depression slowed growth but did not stop it, due in part to a major oil discovery at nearby Kamay in 1938.
Wichita Falls 1940
In 1940 the population was 55,200. Bank deposits exceeded $36 million, and there were ninety-two miles of paved streets, seventy-seven manufacturing establishments, 127 wholesale outlets, and 741 retail stores.
Sheppard Air Force Base
In 1941 the economy was further bolstered by the opening of Sheppard Field, an Army Air Corps training facility. By May 1945, when the base reached its peak strength, there were 46,000 army personnel stationed there. The base was deactivated on August 31, 1946, but reopened as Sheppard Air Force Base in August 1948. It continues to function as a major training center for air force technicians and a flight training center for NATO.
Wichita Falls 1960
By 1960 the population had dropped to 101,724, and while oil production in the area still ranked eighth in the state, it would soon be eclipsed by other areas. By 1962 refinery activity had practically ceased. Recognizing that change was coming, the city's leaders formed Industrial Development, Incorporated, which sought to diversify the economy by attracting other types of industries.
Wichita Falls 1970
In 1970 Industrial Development Inc. merged with the Chamber of Commerce to form the Board of Commerce and Industry. This organization was successful in attracting fifteen new industries during the 1970s, including Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Certain Teed, Washex, Howmet Turbine, AC Spark Plug, and Cieba Geigy.
1979 Tornado
Wichita Falls was devastated on April 10, 1979, by one of the largest tornadoes ever recorded. Sweeping through the southern part of the city, the storm destroyed twenty percent of all the dwellings in town and damaged or destroyed numerous business establishments. Miraculously only forty-five people were killed, although more than 3,200 were injured. The city made a rapid recovery, and within three years most of the damage had been repaired.
Multi-Purpose Events Center
Construction is completed of the 95,000 square foot Multi-Purpose Events Center or MPEC. The MPEC allows Wichita Falls to host large events, musicians, sporting events, festivals, conventions, and tradeshows.
Wichita Falls in 2000
Area residents unite to preserve the unique history of North Texas. Through their tireless efforts, the Museum of North Texas History was started. The first water park in Wichita Falls, Castaway Cove, opened in 2003.
Five year drought leads to award winning conservation project
In 2011, the State of Texas was in the grips of a statewide drought, with 87.99% of the State in an exceptional drought condition. The State was experiencing numerous wildfires and the total conservation capacity of water within reservoirs had dropped to 58%. Wichita Falls had lost 33% of its stored water capacity in just under 12 months, dropping from 86% in November of 2010 to 52.5% in October 2011. Wichita Falls City staff created projections in early 2012, using 2011 weather data, that indicated the City could be out of water as early as the Summer of 2013. With this data, the City of Wichita Falls approached the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) about approving its latest Potable Reuse Pilot Study, conducted by Corlett, Probst, and Boyd, so it could utilize its wastewater effluent as a source of drinking water. Given the estimated timeline and considering the City’s recalculated lake decline projection predicting the loss of all source water by the Summer of 2015, time was running out. The City did not have enough time to implement the IPR project before it might run out of source water. A new approach was needed. The City re-approached the TCEQ in October 2012 with a conceptual plan for a Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) project, that could be brought online much faster. The TCEQ approved the DPR facility for operation in June 2014. The City of Wichita Falls ran the DPR facility from July 9, 2014, through July 21, 2015, ultimately treating over Two Billion Gallons of Wastewater Effluent into drinking water. Wichita Falls experienced historic flooding in May of 2015 which resulted in enough rainfall to officially end the drought. The Wichita Falls Direct Potable Reuse & Indirect Potable Reuse Project was presented with the 2019 Texas Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award on September 20, 2019 during CECON 2019 in San Marcos, Texas.

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