7 Best Lakes in Oklahoma (and Awesome Nearby Campsites)
Oklahoma is a state of drastic differences when it comes to topography.
From the arid lands in the western portion of the state to the green hills and rolling Ozark mountains in the east, it has a wide range of places to explore.
For those that enjoy being near water, we have found several lakes scattered throughout in the Sooner State. So pick your favorite region and head out to any of these 7 best lakes in Oklahoma:
Created in 1952 with the damming of the Illinois River, Lake Tenkiller was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers to control flood waters and produce electricity.
Today, it is a prime destination for scuba diving, boating, fishing and tubing. With more than 130 miles of shoreline, there is plenty to do on land, as well, including hunting and camping. Lake Tenkiller is arguably one of the most beautiful lakes in Oklahoma. The lake lies at the edge of the Ozark Mountains in the midst of scenic hills with miles and miles of forested land.
More than 10 marinas with numerous boat ramps are scattered around the lake, and visitors enjoy a wide variety of culinary delights at three floating restaurants after a day of hiking or a round of golf.
Location: Tenkiller Ferry Lake (commonly known as Lake Tenkiller) is located 20 miles south of the Cherokee capitol of Tahlequah. GPS coordinates: 35°39’26.1″N 94°59’41.4″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Cookson Bend Campground is one of several Corps of Engineers parks and is nicely equipped with 129 campsites, full hookups, hot showers, a swimming beach, and there is plenty of room for fishing from the bank.
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 9.5/10
Straddling the border of Oklahoma and Texas, Lake Texoma emerged in 1944, when the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam across the Red River, in hopes of gaining some control over flooding.
With 93,000 acres, there is plenty of room for outdoor activities of all kinds. But the lake is known for an unusual resident…the striped bass, a saltwater fish. This fish lives in the Red River, which carries more than 3,000 tons of salt down its currents every day. Leftovers from the Cretaceous Period, the ancient seabed has salt deposits from evaporation.
That’s certainly a win for the striped bass AND fishermen who love to catch them!
Location: Situated 15 miles south of Durant, Lake Texoma is one of the largest reservoirs in the country. GPS coordinates: 33°54’50.5″N 96°37’37.2″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Lake Texoma State Park has three campgrounds closely aligned, offering a total of 517 campsites. Whether tenting or RVing, you’ll have no problem finding the
right site for you, with a variety of hookups, hot showers and a large marina out your front door.
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 8.5/10
Lake of the Arbuckles
Building a dam across Rock Creek in 1966 was a way to create this reservoir and provide water to the city of Ardmore and its surrounding communities.
Today, visitors to the lake relish this small but beautiful spot in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The water is full of fishing boats that are filled with those hoping to nab winter bass, as Lake of the Arbuckles is the best body of water in the Midwest to reel one in. There’s still room for sailboats, water skiers and even scuba divers in this little corner of paradise.
Location: Sitting just 15 miles southwest of Sulphur, Lake of the Arbuckles is a small respite in southern Oklahoma. GPS coordinates: 34°26’19.3″N 97°01’12.7″W
Great Nearby Campsite: With 55 well maintained campsites scattered throughout the woods, The Point Campground ranks high on any camper’s list. Several sites have hookups and they are very spacious and private.
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 9/10
Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees
With the completion of Pensacola Dam in 1940, a dream of the Cherokee Nation came to fruition. Grand Lake was created to produce electricity for the tribe in northeastern Oklahoma.
This huge lake is a magnet for today’s travelers, as it also provides outdoor recreation activities like sailing, camping and hiking, and it has a reputation as the top bass fishing lake in the entire country. Along its shore visitors will discover many amenities, including shows, restaurants, golf courses and even an off-road park.
Location: Grand Lake is located less than 30 miles due south of Miami, Oklahoma. GPS coordinates: 36°30’37.6″N 94°57’53.3″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Grand Country Lakeside RV Park receives continuous accolades for its cleanliness and care. With 50 sites for the over 55 crowd, it’s small enough to make you feel like family, but large enough to offer nice amenities. You will find full hookups, hot showers and a location that can’t be beat…right on the water.
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 9.2/10
Broken Bow Lake
Touted as one of the largest freshwater lakes in Oklahoma, Broken Bow began life as a flood control measure in 1970.
Its location in the Ouachita Mountains, close to the Arkansas and Texas borders, makes it a prime destination for residents of those states as well as locals. The lake is surrounded by dense forests, which provide challenging hiking and scenic camping opportunities.
Most visitors spend the bulk of their time on the water, either fishing or recreating on jet skis, paddleboards or houseboats.
Location: Broken Bow Lake lies in the far southeastern corner of Oklahoma, 90 miles northwest of Texarkana, Texas. GPS coordinates: 34°10’53.5″N 94°41’29.6″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Beavers Bend State Park has beautiful lake front property from which to enjoy the tranquility of the campground. Many of the campsites are right on the water, and those that aren’t are not far away from it! You’ll find 241 sites, with electric and water hookups, hot showers and clean restrooms, all located close to waterfalls and the lake. It’s a great place to drop a line, too!
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 8/10
Here’s a spring-fed lake with attitude! It sits inside Lake Murray State Park, the largest state park in Oklahoma! As such, the park has made sure there are plenty of activities to keep visitors busy.
Fishing, swimming and camping top the list, but outdoor enthusiasts will love the 1,000 acres set aside for an ATV course, and softball fields, mountain biking trails and golf courses also situated along the shore. A marina with a ship store, boat slips and ramps completes the picture of an all-inclusive getaway in southern Oklahoma.
Location: Lake Murray is just south of Ardmore, almost to the Texas border. GPS coordinates: 34°03’23.5″N 97°03’48.5″W
Great Nearby Campsite: Elephant Rock Campground at Lake Murray State Park has 300 campsites, all with water views and many right on the lake. Beach your boat right at your site, then enjoy hot showers, clean restrooms and full hookups. There are several hiking and bike trails to enjoy, or you can cast a rod and catch tonight’s dinner!
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 9.5/10
Skiatook Lake was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1984 to provide flood control, a dependable water supply, and to better manage fish and wildlife in the area.
The Lake has become a fisherman’s paradise. Sport fishing tournaments are common here, as several types of bass, crappie and catfish are very plentiful. This lake features miles and miles of beautiful shoreline. Hunting at lake Skiatook is popular in the fall, and summers are celebrated on the beaches the towering bluffs surrounding it the lake.
Skiatook lake has a marina with boat slips, repair services, and eight boat launches scattered along the lake shores.
Location: Skiatook Lake is located just 18 miles northwest of Tulsa, or 4 miles from its namesake town. GPS coordinates: 36°22’27.9″N 96°09’00.3″W
Great Nearby Campsite: With 61 campsites (many on the waterfront), Tall Chief Cove Corps of Engineers Campground is a comfortable place to spend time at Skiatook Lake. There are numerous amenities including hot showers, flush toilets, a basketball court, disc golf and a boat launch. Each site has electric and water hookups, a covered patio, picnic table and fire grate, and many campsites are accessible by water!
Oklahoma Lake Vibes Score: 9.5/10
Enjoy The Best Lakes in Oklahoma
There are so many ways to participate in the gifts that the lakes in Oklahoma provide. Take off in a jet ski, fish in your favorite cove or camp along the shores – it’s up to you. But don’t miss the beauty of these cool and relaxing getaway destinations. They are there for your enjoyment!
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