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The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) has 18 locks and dams along its 445-mile waterway. Chouteau Lock and Dam is one of them, impounding 2,270 surface acres on the Verdigris River. The lock and dam are situated in beautiful Green Country, where Oklahoma prairie lands transition into hilly woodlands. There are scenic sights for every season on the Chouteau project. Here, the greens and wildflowers of summertime change first into the fiery colors of fall and then into the cutting impressions of winter.
The MKARNS waterway, constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, follows along the downstream section of the Arkansas River. It begins in Arkansas, on the Mississippi and White Rivers, then flows through a manmade canal connecting White River to the Arkansas River; from the Arkansas River it flows through Arkansas into Oklahoma and then finally into the Verdigris River at Muskogee in Oklahoma. The waterway ends at Tulsa's Port of Catoosa.
Designed for easier navigation for barges, all locks and dams on the waterway are operated by the Corps. Construction of Chouteau Lock and Dam 17 began in 1966 and was finished in 1970. The dam is an earthfill gravity dam, and the lock chamber, like all lock chambers on the waterway, is 110-feet wide by 600 feet long.
Boating, fishing, hunting, camping and picnicking are some popular activities on Chouteau Lock and Dam. Several parks on the water course include boat launch ramps, campsites, drinking water, picnic areas and sanitary facilities. Fishing possibilities include channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, striped bass, sunfish, carp, buffalo, walleye and bream. About 2,000 acres of land and water is wildlife management area; in this area and on much of the land around the project, public hunting is permitted. White-tailed deer, dove, quail, squirrel, rabbit, turkey and migratory fowl are some of the main game species. A diverse bird population makes a great subject for photography or for the wildlife enthusiast's enjoyment. In the winter, bald eagles nest in the Chouteau Lock and Dam area.
A few miles south of the Chouteau water course is the vibrant city of Muskogee, full of parks, festivals, performances, art, culture and history. Visit the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame or the historic art-deco-style Roxy Theater. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum presents a collection of traditional art from Cherokee, Chicksaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole artists. If you are visiting Chouteau Lock and Dam in the spring, be sure not to miss the Azalea Festival, held in April in the striking Honor Heights Park. Over 30,000 azaleas and other flowering plants stun 500,000 visitors with their beauty. Check out the Bare Bones International Film Festival, also held in April, and stroll through Muskogee's farmer's market.
Downtown Muskogee offers signature dining and there is a room for every budget. Vacation rentals are available near Muskogee, and for those that want to stay longer, the town offers plenty of real estate. The town boasts a cost of living 13% lower than the national average and a variety of houses - wood or brick, Victorian or colonial architecture, modest or luxury. Whether you are just passing through or staying, the Chouteau Lock and Dam area will give you a lot to remember.
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