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No place could be better suited to recreation than Oklahoma's Lake Thunderbird. Located in the Frontier Country Region, Lake Thunderbird provides recreational opportunities to residents and visitors to the town of Norman. The Lake Thunderbird State Park is the only state park in Oklahoma situated within city limits, making it an ideal outing destination for a week-day evening or an entire weekend.
Lake Thunderbird was constructed in 1956 by the US Army Corps of Engineers at the request of local municipalities needing a reliable water supply. Now owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, the reservoir supplies water to Norman, Midwest City, Del City, Moore, and Tinker Air Force Base. Lake Thunderbird is thus located within one of the most densely populated areas of Oklahoma. With 6,070 acres of water and 86 miles of shoreline, Lake Thunderbird provides for all types of water sports and recreation. Lake Thunderbird State Park boasts 1,874 acres adjacent to the lake for camping, swimming, picnicking, hiking and just plain relaxing. The Bureau of Reclamation has met their goals of providing not only water supply but fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities at Thunderbird Reservoir.
Concession operations at the park allow for two marinas, horse stable operations, a restaurant, and The Boathouse, which acts as a community center. A Nature Center provides guided hiking and wildlife knowledge seminars. The park has an archery range and miles of horsback riding trails. Over 11 miles of multi-use trails serving hikers and mountain bikers are located on the south side of the park. On the north side of Lake Thunderbird is an interpretive trail. The park provides over 400 campsites, day use areas, several boat launch facilities and fishing piers. The biggest draw, by far, is power boating. Water skiing is a favorite here as are personal water craft. Those looking for slower activities enjoy house boating and pontooning. Peddle boats, canoes and kayak rentals are available at one of the marinas. There is even a seasonal restaurant on-site.
The Boathouse shares space with the Lake Thunderbird Education Foundation and the Thunderbird Sailing Club. The sailing club offers sailing lessons and regular sailing races and regattas are held several times throughout the year. Fishermen also have all necessary amenities here to enjoy their favorite sport. The lake is managed as a game fishery and regularly stocked with bass. Several bass tournaments are held here each year and Thunderbird Lake usually manages to produce at least one trophy fish. A fish-rearing pond is maintained on-site and operated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for stocking purposes and to rear beneficial aquatic vegetation. Fisherman angle for largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish and saugeye, all raised in the nursery pond.
In addition to Lake Thunderbird State Park, the remaining shoreline is also under the ownership of the federal government and available for limited use as public land. The area is reported by the Tulsa Audubon Society to have 300 vertebrate species representing approximately 50 mammalian species, 175 species of birds, 50 reptilian species, and less than 20 species of amphibians. Ducks, rabbits, deer, turkey, geese, song birds, squirrels and quail are among the wildlife that live around the lake area. Other reports claim that deer are so numerous as to be problematic to vegetation. Hunting is allowed in designated areas, but is restricted to bow hunting. One hunting location is designated for disabled hunters, giving these sportsmen opportunities to engage in a difficult-to-access sport. Some waterfowl hunting is allowed but only before 1:00 p.m. in order to give waterfowl the opportunity to eat available food. The The Lake Thunderbird Eagle Watch is held on specified dates at Crow's Nest Nature Center to give visitors a way to observe bald eagles wintering at the lake.
Visitors wishing to explore the surrounding area will find that Lake Thunderbird lies among rolling prairie hills. The area to the east of the lake is noted for the geological formation that forms Oklahoma's state stone, the Rose Rock. The barite crystals for rose-petal-like structures is present in only a few places on earth. If visitors find them in the park, they are asked to leave them for others to enjoy; the small rocks are available for sale at the Park office and various small rock and gem stores in the area. Two Native American-operated casinos are located nearby. The small town of Noble presents the Rose Rock Music Festival each May and numerous other 'small town' festivals throughout the year.
Because public lands surround the reservoir, there are no vacation rentals directly on the shore. But lodgings nearby offer a view of the lake and all amenities. Several newer real estate developments in the area advertise their proximity to Lake Thunderbird and its recreational opportunities. With Norman only five miles from the lake, no visitor will find anything wanting in the way of activities. Some favorites of visitors include the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at nearby University of Oklahoma and the Jacobson House Native Art Center in Norman.
Less than thirty miles from Lake Thunderbird, Oklahoma City offers a full complement of visitor amenities and special attractions. One location many wish to visit is the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Another stop should be the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The area is well-supplied with golf courses, shopping areas and dining establishments. Big city nightlife is in plentiful supply.
So, come visit the biggest lake in town. Lake Thunderbird has it all. Plan for a week. Make it two. The entire family can be happy here. Book one of the nearby vacation rentals and enjoy a relaxing lakeside retreat.
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