Located in the United States’ south-central region, the landlocked state of Oklahoma is known for its geographical diversity. From rugged mountains, rolling plains, plateaus, ridges, and meadows, Oklahoma is breathtakingly beautiful. The state’s waterways comprise more than 500 named creeks and rivers, and with more than 200 lakes formed due to the construction of dams, Oklahoma has the highest number of artificial lakes among all the US States. The majority of these picturesque lakes in the Sooner State offer a wide array of recreational opportunities attracting thousands of tourists to spend some quality time away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Often referred to as Eufaula Lake, Lake Eufaula is Oklahoma’s largest capacity lake having a water volume of 2,099,000 acre-ft. Formed by the construction of the 3,199 ft long Eufaula Dam on the Canadian River, the reservoir with a surface area of 102,000 acres and a 600-mile-long shoreline covers portions of McIntosh, Pittsburg, Okmulgee, and Haskell counties.
Besides offering ample recreational activities, Lake Eufaula also helps in providing water supply, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and navigation facilities. The lake and its surrounding area offer several recreational activities like fishing, boating, golfing, hiking, swimming, etc. The Lake Eufaula State Park has many facilities, including marinas, swim beaches, group shelters, boat ramps, RV campsites, restrooms, and an enclosed fishing dock. Lake Eufaula also attracts anglers from all over the nation to catch different fish species like largemouth bass, Kentucky bass, catfish, stripers, sand bass, smallmouth bass, and many others.
Broken Bow Lake
One of the state’s biggest freshwater lakes, Broken Bow Lake, is placed approximately 9 miles northeast of the city of Broken Bow in Oklahoma’s McCurtain County. Covering a surface area of 14,000 acres, this reservoir was created by the impoundment of the Mountain Fork River. With a 180-mile-long shoreline and a maximum length of 22 miles, the lake reaches a maximum depth of 185 ft and holds a water volume of 918,070 acre-ft. Many state parks, including Beavers Bend Park and Hochatown State Park, are located close to the lake and offer visitors plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities. Nature enthusiasts are mainly attracted to the stretch of the lake in the state’s Ouachita Mountain County, where the lake’s exceptional scenic beauty mesmerizes everyone.
Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees
Also referred to as the “Grand Lake,” this lake is located at the base of the Ozark Mountain Range in the state’s northeastern portion. Formed by the construction of the Pensacola Dam on the Grand (lower Neosho) River, the lake covers a surface area of 41,779 acres and has a 1,366-mile-long shoreline and a storage volume of 1,515,416 acre-feet. Comparatively deeper and rockier than other Oklahoma lakes, the Grand Lake reaches an average depth of 36.3 ft. Managed by the Grand River Dam Authority, the lake is a popular recreation destination attracting thousands of tourists to its shows, lakeside resorts, and its famed paddle-wheel twin-deck riverboat named ‘Cherokee Queen.’ Besides being home to several game and non-game fish species, Grand Lake is also one of the country’s top bass-fishing lakes.
With a water volume of 2,525,568 acre-ft, Lake Texoma is one of the country’s biggest reservoirs as well as the largest reservoir in the USACE Tulsa District. Straddling across Oklahoma’s Bryan County and Texas’s Grayson County, this reservoir was created in 1944 by the construction of Denison Dam at the meeting point of the Red and Washita Rivers. Covering a surface area of 89,000 acres, the lake also receives water from Big Mineral Creek, Buncombe Creek, Glasses Creek, Little Mineral Creek, and Rock Creek. There are many small islands in the lake, including West Island, Hog Island, Little Island, North Island, Wood Island, and Treasure Island. Plenty of water-based and other recreational activities are offered in the 2 wildlife refuges, 54 USACE-managed parks, 26 resorts, 2 state parks, 12 marinas, various campgrounds, and golf courses. As one of the USACE Tulsa District’s most developed and well-known lakes, Lake Texoma attracts more than 6 million visitors annually.
Located in the northwestern part of Oklahoma City, Lake Hefner is a storage reservoir that is primarily used to supply water for domestic use by the residents of the state capital. Named in honor of the city’s Mayor, Robert Alexander Hefner, the lake covers a surface area of 2,500 acres and holds a water volume of 75,000 acre-feet. With an average depth of 29 ft and reaching a maximum depth of 94 ft, the lake drains via Bluff Creek, which then joins Deer Creek and finally empties into the Cimarron River. The lake’s northern side is occupied by the Lake Hefner Dam, while the lake’s eastern side is bordered by the Lake Hefner Parkway. Filled with various gamefish species like largemouth bass, walleye, white bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, black crappie, and hybrid striped bass, Lake Hefner serves as a popular recreational fishing destination. Moreover, the lake also offers recreational boating, kiteboarding, and about 9.5 miles of multi-use trails.
Keystone Lake is a 23,600-acre reservoir formed in 1968 by the construction of the Keystone Dam on the Arkansas River, downstream of its meeting point with the Cimarron River in Oklahoma’s northeastern portion. The lake has been named after the former community of Keystone, which was located on the site of the lake and later inundated by its waters. Keystone Lake has an average depth of 24 ft, a maximum depth of 73 ft, and holds a water volume of 505,381 acre-ft.
The lake is home to many fish species, like striped bass, black bass, crappie, white bass, smallmouth bass, and catfish. Located along the lake’s shores, the Walnut Creek State Park and Keystone State Park offer ample recreational opportunities like fishing, swimming, camping, hiking, biking, and boating. In addition, Keystone Lake features 4 marinas, 11 boat ramps, 16 recreational areas, 2 off-road vehicle areas, campgrounds, a public hunting area, and a waterfowl refuge.
Tenkiller Ferry Lake
Often referred to as “Lake Tenkiller,” the Tenkiller Ferry Lake was created by the construction of an earth-fill dam on the Illinois River in the state’s eastern portion. Covering a surface area of 12,900 acres, the lake has a maximum length of 35 miles, more than 130 miles of shoreline, and holds a water volume of 677,000 acre-ft, making it the state’s 6th largest lake by water capacity. Tenkiller Ferry Lake is placed approximately 30 miles from Muskogee, 75 miles southeast of Tulsa, 150 miles east of Oklahoma City, and 50 miles west of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Both the lake and the dam have been named in honor of the indigenous Tenkiller family, who owned the land and ferry that was bought by the US Army Corps of Engineers for the dam-building project. Tenkiller Ferry Lake offers an array of recreational activities like scuba diving, hiking, golfing, fishing, camping, hunting, and wildlife watching. Bald eagles, mountain lions, minks, warblers, Canada geese, white-tail deer, monarch butterflies, otters, goats, etc have been observed along the lake’s shores. Moreover, the lake contains 10 marinas, 24 boat launching ramps, 5 floating restaurants, 14 parks, and several islands, including the well-known Goat Island.
Located entirely within Lake Murray State Park – the state’s oldest and biggest state park, the 5,728-acre Lake Murray is an artificial reservoir created by the construction of an earthen dam on Anadarche and Fourche Maline Creeks. Both the state park and the lake has been named after the renowned American politician William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, who served as the Governor of Oklahoma. Holding a water volume of 153,250 acre-feet, Lake Murray has a 67-mile-long shoreline and offers various water-based recreational opportunities. In addition, hiking, camping, picnicking, golfing, horseback riding, and biking can also be enjoyed along the lake’s shores. The diverse terrain, historic sites, and hiking trails make Lake Murray State Park a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting over 1.7 million visitors annually.
Lake Overholser is an urban reservoir created by the construction of the Overholser Dam on the North Canadian River in the state’s Oklahoma County. Named in honor of the American politician Ed Overholser, who served as the 16th Mayor of Oklahoma City, the reservoir is placed within the city limits of the state capital, approximately 2.9 miles west of Bethany and 4.4 miles from Yukon. Covering a surface area of 1,500 acres, the lake has an average depth of 6 ft and reaches a maximum depth of 13 ft.
With a water volume of 17,100 acre-feet, Overholser Lake is home to various fish species, including white bass, bluegill, flathead catfish, carp, largemouth bass, bream, striped bass, and crappie. However, though fishing and boating are allowed in the lake, swimming is strictly prohibited.
Skiatook Lake is a federally-managed reservoir created by the impoundment of Hominy Creek by the Skiatook Dam, about 14 miles upstream from the meeting point of the Hominy and Bird Creeks. Located in Oklahoma’s Osage County, the reservoir is approximately 4 miles west of Skiatook, 11 miles east of Hominy, and 18 miles from Tulsa. Covering a surface area of 10,500 acres and placed at an elevation of 714 ft, Skiatook Lake is the state’s fifteenth-largest lake by surface area. With a 160-mile-long shoreline featuring steep picturesque bluffs and rolling hills, the lake holds a water volume of 322,700 acre-feet at normal levels, making it the state’s eleventh-largest lake by capacity. Besides controlling floods and offering recreational opportunities, Skiatook Lake provides water for the neighboring cities of Skiatook, Sapulpa, Sand Springs, and Tulsa.
Many sport fish species, like largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, lake perch, crappie, bluegill, etc., are found here. Different animals, such as white-tail deer, squirrel, raccoon, coyote, rabbit, opossum, red fox, bobcat, gray fox, and several avian species, are observed along the lake’s shores. Skiatook Lake is an ideal place to enjoy various recreational activities like fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, camping, hiking, and picnicking. The Crystal Bay Marina and Cross Timbers Marina offer a range of marina facilities, including cabin rentals, boat slip rentals, and fuel sales.
These ten lakes mentioned above are some of the most beautiful water bodies in the nation’s 20th largest and 28th most populous state. Each of these spectacular lakes set amidst stunning natural surroundings is sure to captivate the senses of everyone who visits them. So, pack your gear and set out on a day trip or a vacation to these pristine lakes and take part in the variety of water sports they offer, or just relax by the shores and enjoy their scenic beauty.