Great Lakes in the Sooner State
Sailing on Grand Lake.
Having a sensational daylong or weekend getaway can be as simple as chucking some gear in the truck and heading to the lake … once you determine which one of Oklahoma’s more than 200 options is your optimal mini-vacation destination. The good news is that there are very few wrong answers for the question of which lake to visit; the better news is that, depending on what you want to do, here are the right ones.
Naturally, an argument can be made for all kinds of places – anything with enough surface area to accommodate them will probably be home to at least a couple of Ski-Doos (or should that be Skis-Doo?) during the long summer months. But if you’d like a few recommendations, haul out the state map and circle Lake Eufaula (with a whopping 150+ square miles of surface area and plenty of amenities), Grand Lake (one of Oklahoma’s foremost destinations for pleasure boating) and Lake Texoma, home to sandy beaches, secluded coves and more than a dozen marinas.
Scuba adventures this far from a coastline? Yes, really. Exploring “the underlake world” doesn’t sound as impressive as “the undersea world,” but a couple of Oklahoma lakes are deep enough that you can still indulge your inner Jacques Cousteau. The prime recommendation is Lake Tenkiller, which is clearer down below than Broken Bow Lake and almost as deep (around 160 feet); beyond the simple novelty, there are a few specially added venues like a sunken school bus and airplane fuselage for exploration.
You’re probably going to be looking at the eastern half of the state; after all, without a few changes in elevation, it really only counts as walking, doesn’t it? Travel OK.com especially recommends Greenleaf Lake near Braggs in Muskogee County as one of its top 10 state park experiences, based in large part on the lush, hilly, heavily wooded scenery, and the 18-mile hiking and mountain biking trail that winds through and shows it off to best advantage. Alternately, when you’re moving through a backdrop as picturesque as Beavers Bend (see “Just Looking”), the trail doesn’t have to do much of the work.
Now you’re talking. The lure (geddit?) of reeling in the big one is strong in the Sooner state, but where you should go depends on what you’re looking for: Grand Lake clocks in at #17 on Bassmaster Magazine’s best bass lakes in the country (the highest of the three Oklahoma lakes in the top 100); Lake Eufaula is a prime haven for catfish (try under the bridges of Highway 9 or I-40); Broken Bow Lake is easily the best place to find knockout trout within our borders; and Lake Texoma absolutely teems with crappie, bluegill, catfish and especially stripers. In the angler’s paradise that is Oklahoma, Texoma may well be the crown jewel.
The problem with publicly praising someplace for its secluded, pristine splendor is that if everyone goes to see it, it immediately loses that peaceful paradise vibe. So don’t tell anybody, but Broken Bow Lake/Beavers Bend State Park is a solid contender for the title of most incredibly gorgeous spot in the state – its glassy waters, towering pines and abundant wildlife form what seems to be a separate world untouched by human stresses and woes. Calling it a must-see doesn’t do it justice; visitors can’t help lingering to drink it in for hours.