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Lake Wister, in southeastern Oklahoma's Kiamichi Country, is a reservoir created by damming the Poteau River -- the only river that flows north in Oklahoma -- and the Fourche Maline Creek. The lake was authorized in 1938 by the Flood Control Act of 1938 for flood control and conservation. Operational in 1949, the 7,333-acre lake is located in the San Bois Mountains, an area inhabited for thousands of years as evidenced by numerous mounds from prehistoric Native Americans. As home to the important artifacts, Lake Wister is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Boasting 115 miles of shoreline, Lake Wister offers some of the best catfish and crappie fishing in Oklahoma. The Poteau River above Wister Lake is also a good area to fish during the spring runs of sand or white bass. Other fish to look for include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and sunfish.
Hunting is allowed at the Wister Wildlife Management Area, where you can expect to find white-tailed deer, turkey, waterfowl, rabbit, squirrel, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, beaver, skunk, opossum, fox, quail, and dove. Nongame species that are protected include bald and golden eagles, river otter, and black bears. The Wister Wildlife Management Area offers camping, cabins, RV sites, showers, picnic areas, group picnic shelters, and a lighted boat ramp.
Lake Wister State Park, the gateway to Ouachita National Forest, offers hiking, camping, paddling, bicycling, picnicking, fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, miniature golf, and volleyball. Other facilities in the state park include lighted boat ramps, playgrounds, a nature center, and a swimming beach. The fall foliage in this part of Oklahoma is famous and attracts visitors and organized groups every year to the Lake Wister area.
If you just want to relax at Lake Wister, there is plenty to do, including hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, water skiing, jet skiing, bird watching, and nature photography. Vacation rentals are available at Lake Wister for weekend, weekly, or monthly rates, as well as real estate for the more permanently-minded visitor.
For off-the-lake activities, visit Poteau to see the Kerr Museum and Conference Center. Home to U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr, the mansion contains many personal items and office furnishings of the late Senator. Visit Heavener Runestone State Park, near the city of Heavener, to see the runstone believed to be a land claim made by a Viking explorer prior to 1000 A.D. Just past Wister State Park is the Ouchita National Forest, which covers almost two million acres in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Incredible mountain views and pristine rivers and lakes make the Ouachita National Forest a beautiful outdoor destination. Travel the Winding Star National Scenic Byway to get a good glimpse at Ouchita and what the national forest has to offer. There is an extensive trail system that accommodates hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and off-road vehicles. Other areas in the national forest you might want to visit include Red Slough Wildlife Area, the Womble Trail, and the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Wister Reservoir and the surrounding area could keep anyone busy for weeks -- explore the wildlife areas, play in the lake, and just relax to a beautiful sunset. Head to Lake Wister in southeastern Oklahoma for an Oklahoma most people don't even know exists.
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