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Lake Tenkiller Community Information

Lake Tenkiller is Oklahoma’s water wonderland. The 12,900 acres of clear waters, 130 miles of scenic shoreline, gravel banks and rocky bluffs create an atmosphere for a great variety of water sport activities and recreational enjoyment.

Fish and wildlife resources at Lake Tenkiller provide many outdoor recreational opportunities. Year-round fishing is excellent for black bass, white bass, crappie, catfish, bream and walleye. Hunting opportunities abound with approximately 80,000 acres of land open for public hunting. Adjacent private lands also provide thousands of acres of excellent wildlife habitat. Principal game species include whitetail deer, turkey, bobwhite quail, mourning dove, cottontail rabbit, squirrel, and waterfowl.

The beautiful clear waters of Lake Tenkiller are perfect for all types of boating and skiing activities. The lake has ten marinas and fourteen parks with all levels of campsite facilities available. There are twenty-four boat launch ramps around the lake for those who bring their own boats. All areas are managed by the State of Oklahoma or the Corps of Engineers

Midway on the east side of the lake, the community of Cookson is the hub of lake area activity, which includes Lake Tenkiller Airpark, the only airport on the lake shore. This facility is a publicly owned, publicly used airport and is a part of the Oklahoma System of Airports. The runway is grass and is 2,600 feet in length. There are low intensity runway lights, Visual Approach Slope Indicator Lights (VASI), a rotating beacon and a lighted wind indicator. The airport boasts a new terminal building with many amenities, including an attendant on duty to serve visitors flying to the lake area.

Visitors can find excellent lodging and dining at the many resorts, motels and restaurants around the lake. There are paved roadways surrounding the lake and into each recreational access point. There are many businesses all around the lake and river to meet the needs of visitors.

Floating and fishing the Illinois River above and below Lake Tenkiller are very popular. The Upper Illinois River—a 70–mile stretch above Lake Tenkiller—contains most of the commercial canoe operations. Clear water—just right for swimming, scenic bluffs, and excellent smallmouth bass fishing contribute to the popularity of this area. Most commercial canoe operators are located along Highway 10, north of Tahlequah, which is designated as one of Oklahoma's scenic drives. This drive is especially noted for the burst of spring blooms of native redbud and dogwood in March and April, and the fall color explosion as the fall foliage begins its' annual show around the middle of October.

Lake Tenkiller provides the most spectacular underwater scenery of any lake in the region including Texas, Arkansas, Kansas or Missouri. The clear, blue water is shadowed by natural bluffs adding that touch of suspense and mystery.

Lake Tenkiller History

The lake was created in the Illinois River basin by the Tulsa District Army Corps of Engineers. The Tenkiller Ferry project was started in June of 1947 by the Corps of Engineers in compliance with the Flood Control Act of 1938. It was designed and built by the Corps at a cost of $23,687,000. According to the Corps of Engineers, the lake and dam get their name from Tenkiller Crossing. The crossing was a main route across the Illinois River in frontier times. Tenkiller Crossing is named for a famous Cherokee family. Tenkiller is a proud example of how man and nature can combine their talents and beauty to produce a thing of lasting quality for this generation and generations to come.

Boating & Sailing

The beautiful clear waters of Lake Tenkiller are perfect for all types of boating which is a year-round sport on the lake. The lake is surrounded with mountains, cliffs and rolling hills. All types of boats are used on the lake from canoes to ski rigs to 60-foot houseboats. Marinas on the lake offer many services such as water storage, repair, boat sales and rentals. There are also floating restaurants on the lake for your enjoyment.

In recent years sailing has increased on the beautiful waters of Lake Tenkiller. Every year more sailing enthusiasts are discovering that the clear water is ideally suited for the deep keels of sailboats. Tenkiller presents a challenge because of its narrowness and shoreline of mountains and cliffs. Winds often come in gusts, requiring constant alertness. The beautiful coves throughout the lake offer excellent protected anchorage. Year-round on-water storage slips are available for your convenience.

Water Skiing

Skiing is still a growing form of entertainment and Tenkiller is still in the forefront. Water skiing or sled boarding behind a power boat is still as popular as ever, but now, power skis (self-powered devices) are providing much of the water sport fun on the lake.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is one of the fastest growing sports at Lake Tenkiller. Area scuba divers have discovered the cool, clear blue water offers a clear visibility and many unique underwater sights. Scuba diving is very popular, particularly at Tenkiller State Park and Strayhorn Landing.


Fishing resources at Lake Tenkiller provide a wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Fishing is excellent for black bass, white bass, crappie, catfish, bream, and walleye year-round. Tenkiller is a popular lake for tournament fishermen. Rainbow trout are routinely stocked in the Illinois River below Tenkiller Dam providing an extremely successful trout fishery. Striped bass are also common in the lower Illinois River with several state record fish coming from its waters. Four heated fishing docks on the lake offer cold weather comfort for wintertime crappie fishing.

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