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Oklahoma's Chickasaw National Recreation Area draws over three and a half million visitors a year and their main attraction is Lake of the Arbuckles. Located in southcentral Oklahoma, Arbuckle Lake is part of the scenic Arbuckle Country Tourism Region. Those driving Interstate 35 will find this wonderful getaway less than a three-hour drive north of Dallas-Fort Worth or south of Oklahoma City.
Murray County is home to beautiful Arbuckle Lake and the impressive geologic features found in the Arbuckle Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in the United States. With elevations running from 700 to 1,400 feet, the roads cutting through the mountainsides display the results of the earth's violent mountain-building process. The forces of nature will impress you as you drive past mile after mile of undulating layers of rock.
The Arbuckles were originally part of the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw people traveled to Oklahoma along the "Trail of Tears" when they were forced from their native Tennessee and Mississippi lands. The first white settlers were drawn to Oklahoma under the Homestead Act of 1862. By 1889 Oklahoma was opened to white settlers, forcing the Chickasaw to move once again. The rugged Arbuckles and poor soil did not support large farms so the cattle business dominated southern Oklahoma's economy for decades. Since the 1930s, various plans have been presented to create a reservoir in the Washita River Basin. The Arbuckle Project, and Arbuckle Reservoir, were finally authorized in 1962. Lake Arbuckles was completed in 1966 and the aqueduct and community water systems were completed in 1967.
Found at the north end of the Arbuckle Mountains, Arbuckle Reservoir is formed by Arbuckle Dam, located on Rock Creek, a tributary of the Washita River. The dam, with a height of 150 feet and length of 1,890 feet, was built by the Bureau of Reclamation and is managed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Arbuckle Reservoir was created to provide water for the Arbuckle Project. The project provisions were to: (1) construct the dam, reservoir, and recreational facilities, (2) develop lands for wildlife management, (3) provide municipal and industrial water supplies to the nearby communities of Sulphur, Davis, Dougherty, Ardmore, and Wynnewood plus an oil refinery and Ardmore Industrial Air Park. Because the Arbuckle Project was not designed to supply irrigation needs water levels remain fairly stable during summer months.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area was created in 1976. Originally named Sulphur Springs Reservation in 1902, the historic mineral springs along Rock and Travertine Creeks became Platt National Park in 1906. Additional lands were added to the park to create today's recreation area covering approximately 3,400 acres. The Platt Historic District remains at the northern end of the park. Found within the historic district are multiple mineral springs, a bison pasture, and Travertine Nature Center. This educational center provides exhibits that explain the unique forest/prairie ecosystem, springs, and wildlife that exist around Lake Arbuckles.
While Lake Arbuckle does not provide a back country experience, numerous hiking trails within the park provide excellent opportunities to enjoy nature, wildlife, and the tranquility of the countryside. Choose the length and difficulty of your walk as you stroll along the banks of Lake Arbuckle, pause to enjoy the clear water of Little Niagra Falls, or view grazing bison in the bison pasture.
Numerous campgrounds surround Arbuckle Lake's 36-mile shoreline. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, boat ramps, potable water, and pit toilets. Some campgrounds include showers, dump stations, swimming areas and direct access to hiking trails.
Lake of the Arbuckles is the park's center attraction. Powerboats, sailing, canoeing, water skiing, tubing, wake boarding, swimming, and even scuba diving are among the activities found on Arbuckle Lake. Boat ramps and docks can be found at both ends of the reservoir. Boating permits are required and available for annual or day use.
Arbuckle Lake is known for its year-round fishing. An Oklahoma fishing license is required if you want to cast a line for catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, white bass, sunfish or bluegill. Websites have noted that Arbuckle Lake's quiet protective coves are good for trotlines. Within the park, and only yards north of Lake Arbuckle, lies Veterans Lake. This 67-acre lake also has great fishing. A state record-winning black bass hybrid weighing eight pounds, five ounces was caught on Veterans Lake in 2006. This is a no-wake lake making it an excellent place for canoeing and kayaking the three-mile shoreline. A boat ramp, boat dock, wheel-chair accessible fishing dock, picnic area, restrooms, and shelters are available around Veterans Lake.
The wildlife area that surrounds Arbuckle Lake provides habitat for quail, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, dove, ducks, geese and deer. Hunting is allowed within specified park zones during hunting season.
While you are enjoying your stay at Lake Arbuckle, don't miss the opportunity to visit Turner Falls Park. Located 10 miles west of Arbuckle Lake, clear mountain springs provide water for Oklahoma's tallest waterfall. The 77-foot waterfall ends in a beautiful pool of water perfect for summertime swimming and family picnics.
Those driving from Dallas-Ft. Worth may enjoy a stop at Lake Texoma. Located thirty-five miles southeast of Arbuckle Lake, Lake Texoma is an impoundment of the Red River on the Oklahoma-Texas border. This 74,686-acre lake is one of the largest lake in the United States and a fisherman's paradise. Species found in Lake Texoma include blue and channel catfish, white and striped bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, black and white crappie and bluegill.
For additional lakeside fun, Lake Murray State Park can be found 40 miles south of Arbuckle Lake. Lake Murray's 5,782 acres provide access to fishing, boating and water sports of all kinds. Park sport facilities include courses for golf, miniature golf and frisbee golf, tennis courts, softball fields, a baseball diamond, horseshoe pits, badminton, and volleyball nets. Even motorcycle, dirt bike and ATV riders enjoy their own riding area.
With so much to see and do, it is not surprising that Arbuckle Lake is a popular vacation destination. Residential developments have grown along the northwestern boundary of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. This boundary area is only yards away from Arbuckle Lake, giving vacation homes and real estate properties beautiful views of the lake and the Arbuckle Mountains. Additional properties may be found in and around the community of Sulphur. Serving as a northern gateway to the park, Sulphur's local businesses cater to the needs of park and Arbuckle Mountains visitors. Convenient to major metropolitan areas, the Arbuckles' sunny climate, sporting opportunities and country lifestyle make Lake of the Arbuckles more than a destination. Find your home on Arbuckle Lake and reside where the natural beauty of the Arbuckle Mountains merges with your gentle lakefront terrain.
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