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McGee Creek Lake provides a rare surprise for visitors to southeastern Oklahoma. Hidden in the rugged, heavily-forested Ouachita Mountains, McGee Creek Lake provides a wealth of recreational opportunities to many who visit here each year. McGee Creek Reservoir is actually part of a complex system of water supply for Oklahoma City. In 1988, McGee Creek was dammed to form a steady supply of water to be pumped to Lake Atoka, from there to be transferred to Lake Stanley Draper for the use of citizens of Oklahoma City. Completion of the dam caused McGee Creek and Potapo Creek to back up 14 and 12 miles respectively into a continuous expanse of water. The reservoir covers a total of 3,810 acres on the border of Oklahoma's Arbuckle Country and Kiamichi Country tourism regions.
Now under the management of the Bureau of Reclamation, McGee Creek Lake has been developed into a prime wildlife and recreational site. The lower portion of the reservoir has been cleared of stumps and obstacles to provide a safe place for power-boating, sailing and water skiing. The upper portion has remained in its natural state for the benefit of fish and bird species. Submerged brush piles have been placed in the lower cleared area to provide fish cover for breeding and fishing purposes. In keeping with the State's vision of creating recreational and wildlife habitat acres, McGee Creek State Park encloses much of the shoreline of both the McGee Creek and Potapo Creek arms. At the north end, between the two arms lies McGee Creek Wildlife Management Area. The far north reach of the McGee Creek arm is a 'quiet water zone' within Bugaboo Canyon Natural Scenic Area accessible only by permit. Hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails are available within the Natural Scenic Area. An excellent spot for photographing nature and the spectacular scenery, an overlook area is accessible on the east. The Park Office there can direct visitors to the best areas for what they wish to see.
At the south end of McGee Creek Lake, another Park Office between the dam and the spillway leads visitors to areas for boat launch, fishing, camping, rest rooms, picnic shelters and a swimming beach. Another full camping and picnicking area with boat launch is located a short distance away on the Potapo arm of the reservoir near the dike. Other boat launch sites exist as well, guaranteeing the fisherman and water sport enthusiast can always find easy access to the water. The park's 2600 acres extends to the 8900 acre Natural Scenic Area. When combined with the Wildlife Management Area, over 20,000 pristine acres is under protection around the lake. While the lower reaches of the reservoir are ideal for power boating and sailing, the upper reaches lend themselves ideally to canoeing and kayaking the better to observe and photograph the abundant wildlife.
McGee Creek Lake is considered one of Oklahoma's top lakes for springtime trophy bass. Florida bass have been stocked yearly here. Other game fish the lake is known for include crappie, channel catfish and sunfish, making McGee Creek Lake a favored fishing destination. The 64 miles of shoreline provide some of the best habitat for game fish anywhere. Open areas at the south end of the reservoir allow for trolling. As the Wildlife Management Area is open to hunting during the season, many outdoorsmen return in the fall to attempt to bag white-tail deer, quail, rabbit, squirrel and wild turkey.
The Wildlife Management Area is excellent for bird watching, with screech owls quite abundant. Bald eagles nest here and numerous non-game bird species exist, providing birders ample opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. Besides the usual game varieties, the WMA contains coyotes, opossum, raccoon and bobcat. The Wildlife Management Area plants about 50 acres of crops to be used as a food source for native wildlife.
There is limited privately-owned shoreline but vacation rentals can be found: McGee Creek Lake is in one of the favored vacation destinations and vacation rentals abound in the area, many with lake views. From single cabins to entire resorts,the area is well-supplied with lodgings. Real estate is also possible to locate in the area.
A good place to locate rentals is in the small town of Antlers, 18 miles east of McGee Creek Lake. Antlers advertises itself as the deer capitol of the world and has a Wildlife Heritage Center Museum with exhibits detailing the native fauna and a chance to see deer up close-a favorite with kids. The town also is supplied with that amenity demanded by the obsession of many vacationers - a golf course!
Atoka, about the same distance to the west, also holds many attractions for the visitor. Home to the Confederate Memorial Museum & Cemetery, a winery, golf facilities and Atoka Lake with its nearby Wildlife Management Area, Atoka is a great place to find lodgings with a small-town Oklahoma atmosphere. Other towns in the immediate vicinity of McGee creek Lake are Lane, Crystal, Old Ferris, Bruno and Lone Pine.
For a relaxing week - or even a month, check out the beautiful surroundings at McGee Creek Lake. To explore the entire shoreline and natural areas would take an entire summer. Start exploring it soon.
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