Lake Tenkiller ‘clear water paradise’

06/28/2019 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Clear waters of Lake Tenkiller are seen from Tenkiller State Park in northwestern Sequoyah County. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Described as Oklahoma’s “clear water paradise,” the sprawling Tenkiller Ferry Lake is a recreation hub nestled in the scenic foothills of the Ozark Mountains.

Lake Tenkiller, as it’s more commonly called, is located on the Illinois River south of Tahlequah, covering nearly 13,000 acres and 130 miles of shoreline.

“The rocky bluffs and serene, lush forests provide beautiful scenery from any spot on the lake,” the Greater Tenkiller Association states. “There are many secluded coves to anchor into and enjoy a day on the lake. Whether this is your first adventure or a return visit, we know you will find what your heart desires with our vast array of activities.”

Around the lake are 10 marinas and 14 parks managed by the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are also 24 boat-launch ramps, three floating restaurants and islands to explore, the most famous being “Goat Island,” inhabited with goats that can sometimes be spotted grazing at the shoreline.

“With almost 1,400 acres available for camping around Lake Tenkiller and along the upper and lower Illinois River, the Tenkiller area is the camper's paradise,” the association notes. “With two state parks and many campgrounds that are privately owned or managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there is room for everyone with a range of facilities from RV hookups to the most primitive settings of your choosing.”

Visitors can stay in locations “nestled in the serene setting of the woods, surrounded by nature, along the banks of the river or lake, perched high above the water on bluffs, with breathtaking views of the water, or in town with the conveniences of close shopping and dining,” according to the association.

The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce touts Lake Tenkiller as one of the best Oklahoma locations for scuba diving, “as its waters are clear from 8 to 28 feet. In some areas of the lake, the remains of homesteads and artifacts left behind before the lake was formed litter the lake bottom and give divers a glimpse of history. The lake’s underwater terrain ranges from mildly sloping hills to rock cliffs, and the water goes up to 165 feet deep in places.”

Year-round fishing includes black bass, white bass, striped bass, crappie, catfish, bream and walleye, with rainbow and brown trout stocked in the Illinois River below the dam.

“The trout fishery on the river attracts many visitors, as does the Illinois River above the lake which attracts canoeists and rafters,” the Greater Tenkiller Association states. “Lake Tenkiller is a popular lake for fishing tournaments. Striped bass is also common in the lower Illinois River with several state record fish coming from its waters. Fishing is a year-round activity with each season producing its own fun and challenges.”

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