Sequoyah State Park open despite high lake levels

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
06/25/2019 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A whitetail deer at Sequoyah State Park takes a mid-afternoon rest about 100 yards from the park’s main road. Wildlife viewing is a popular activity at the park, and the lake levels have not diminished sightings of local fauna. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Despite high water levels caused by recent flooding on Fort Gibson Lake, nine holes are still open on the Sequoyah State Park golf course. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Despite high water levels caused by recent flooding on Fort Gibson Lake, nine holes are still open on the Sequoyah State Park golf course. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
HULBERT – It’s been a rough start to the summer for Sequoyah State Park, west of Hulbert on Highway 51.

Like so many families and establishments, the 303-acre park has endured the adversity of the historically copious spring rains, and many features remain partially flooded. Water levels on Fort Gibson Lake remained high in early June.

“It’s had a substantial impact on camping, even at the lodge where, though it is fully open, a lot of people have canceled their reservations,” Tony Presley, park manager, said June 5. “(Memorial Day) weekend, we should have been 80 or 90 percent full, but we were down to around 30 percent. Half of the RV sites and the majority of tent sites are underwater.”

About 80 percent of the park’s trails have at least some standing water, and Presley expects the flooding to have an effect lasting eight to 10 weeks before everything is back to normal. He expects visitation to be effected during the Independence Day holiday, even if the lake level returns to normal. Crews will follow the receding waters to remove deposited debris.

But that just leaves more room for those willing to make the trip, and there is still much to do at Sequoyah State Park.

“Everything is still open,” Presley said. “You can still access parts of the trail. Primitive camping and RV camping is still available. Normally those particular sites that remain open wouldn’t be close to the water, but the water has come to you. Campers will want to remember that the high water means it will be a little murkier, have more debris, and animals may wander a little closer to the sites. The group camp, marina and riding stables are all open. The golf course is open on nine holes, though you might have to go around some water. They can still rent golf carts or a room at the lodge. They can go see the goats in the pens, because the Three Rivers Nature Center is open.”

The Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation maintains a dedicated web page for Sequoyah State Park at www.travelok.com/state-parks/13299. There are also SSP Facebook pages, including “Sequoyah Bay State Park,” which is frequently updated by park naturalist Angelina Stancampiano. A weekly schedule is included for the nature center, and the monthly newsletter is posted with listings of activities and events.

“The Three Forks Nature Center is still open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a daily feeing program at 2 p.m.,” Stancampiano said. “We will be planning a program for this summer. We post events and information about our natural resources on Facebook. We do have a new pollinator patch with the trail, so visitors will be able to walk through an see some native plants and pollinators.”

Stancampiano said the nature center is renovating some displays, and will have a new replica fish tank this summer that will include bass, catfish and soft-shelled turtles. Interpretive placards are being redesigned, and additional signs are planned for the nature trail. The park is home to 15 miles of trails, including one featuring fossils. Some of the trails are paved and handicapped accessible.

“We also want people to know that we have many species of plants and animals that are native to Oklahoma,” Stancampiano said.

Presley said there are attractions unaffected by the high waters, and encouraged people to visit.

“A lot of people drive through to look at the wildlife,” he said. “There is no charge to enter the park or use the boat ramps. You can have a picnic and there are playgrounds in the park. The restaurant is open seven days a week. We do breakfast, lunch and dinner with a catfish buffet on Friday nights. The marina rents boats, but also kayaks and water toys. As long as the lake is stable, they will rent. If it is really windy, or they are running current really high at the dam, those are the only times they won’t rent. Right now, the water is still too high at the boat ramps, but boats are available for rent and can be launched at the marina.”

Sequoyah State Park is also the site of the defunct Ray community, but its existence is still evident, particularly at the Ray Mission.

“If you are into history, you can enjoy here,” Presley said. “There are even four cemeteries (North Ray, Melton, Cockrum, Charles Cochran) still in the park.”

A group camp includes 10 A-frame cabins and can accommodate 153 people, and the Lodge bunkhouse can sleep up to 43.

“We have reunions, churches and youth groups come through,” Presley said. “There is a large kitchen and dining area, with group areas, in the group camp, and it is reasonably priced.”

Sequoyah State Park also offers the Rayhaven Cabin, which Presley described as “a mix” between camping and lodging. It sleeps three and has heat and air, a TV, mini fridge and coffee maker. The rate is $60 a night, but a $50 cleaning deposit is also required.

For information, visit the Facebook or tourism department pages, or call the park office at 918-772-2046 or toll free at 1-800-368-1486. Call the Lodge at 918-772-2545 and get golf course conditions at 918-772-2297.
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