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Canton Lake is an expansive body of water in northwestern Oklahoma's Red Carpet Country (named for its red soil). The United States Army Corps of Engineers constructed Canton Lake in 1948 in this land of gigantic mesas, rocky buttes and gypsum sand dunes. It is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and folks just looking for some pretty scenery.
Canton Lake is located on the North Canadian River, two miles north of the town of Canton. It was originally constructed for flood control, water supply and a water reservoir. Oklahoma City pays to have water released from Canton Lake when it is in need of water.
Recreation is the big draw to Canton Lake. Canton Lake brings in droves of campers, picnickers, boaters, fishermen, and hunters every year. Canton Lake's gently sloping sandy beaches invite visitors in for a swim and offer ample room for sunbathing. The broad placid water is ideal for water skiing. The Corps of Engineers runs five multi-use recreation areas. Each area offers a mixture of overnight camping and day-use opportunities such as picnicking. Water gazers can take in the beauty of the lake from a 2.5 mile stretch of State Highway 58A crossing over the Canton Dam. There are three parking areas with fishing piers located on the dam as well as a nature trail, overlook visitor center, outdoor amphitheater, scenic drive and an active prairie dog town.
Anglers know Canton Lake as Oklahoma's leading fisherman's paradise. It is home to crappie, white bass, hybrid bass, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. Canton is most widely known for an abundance of walleye and has become the primary source of walleye eggs used to stock other Oklahoma lakes. Canton Lake hosts an annual Walleye Rodeo fishing derby during the month of May, usually the weekend after Mother's Day. The event attracts 150,000 to 200,000 visitors to the Canton Lake area each day of the event. Lake front homes are among the available vacation rentals, but if you are coming for the Walleye Rodeo you will have to plan far in advance.
Hunters travel to the Canton Lake area for year round hunting opportunities. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation operates the Canton Wildlife Management Area. It is a 14,862-acre public hunting area with most of the land being adjacent to Canton Lake and the North Canadian River. Hunters can scope out bobwhite quail, deer, waterfowl, squirrel, wild turkey, and doves all year. Canton WMA is predominantly floodplain habitat with some upland sites occurring toward the western end of the area.
The habitat varies from end to end. On the eastern end is post oak/blackjack cross timbers type of habitat. Sand sage grassland interspersed with sand plum, eastern red cedar, American elm, and black locust make up the habitat in the west end of the WMA.
Roman Nose State Park and Lodge is about 30 miles south of Canton Lake in Watonga, Oklahoma. The site was once a winter campground of the Cheyenne tribe. Now it is a scenic retreat on a canyon bluff over-looking ancient mesas. In 2009 the main lodge is undergoing renovations but the rest of the park and cabins remain open. The park boosts an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools, hiking trails, two lakes with trout fishing in season, canoeing, paddleboats, mountain biking, horse stables, and hayrides by reservation; picnic areas, tent campsites, and RV campsites with hookups round out the amenities. Roman Nose State Park also offers good opportunities for fall foliage and wildlife viewing. In the summer months there are even teepee rentals.
Also in Watonga is the TB Ferguson House. It is a magnificently renovated Victorian home circa 1907. It was the home of newspaper man and former territorial governor TB Ferguson. Ferguson was the territory's longest standing governor from November 1901 to January 1906. His greatest contribution was pushing for statehood for the Oklahoma territory.
North of Canton Lake is the town of Fairview. The Major County Historical Society and Museum is a 160-acre farm on State Highway 58. The grounds surround the museum, the Veteran's Memorial, a one-room school house, the Orient Depot, the BlueFront Hotel, a turn of the century house and the Avenue of Memories, a brick walk with bricks engraved with the names of people and businesses that have help Major County prosper over the past 100 years.
Canton Lake is a breathtaking destination, filled with the drama of massive ancient mesas, rugged buttes and sweeping sand dunes. It is a place where the fishing and the hunting are just as good as the views. Once you visit, we are sure you will want to return.
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