Lake Carlton, Oklahoma, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Oklahoma - Kiamichi Country -

Also known as:  Robbers Cave State Park

One small lake in Southeastern Oklahoma, Lake Carlton provides a giant-sized helping of recreational opportunities. Not to be confused with larger Carlton Lake west of Oklahoma City, this Kiamichi Country reservoir was built in the 1930s expressly to provide recreational opportunities. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employees dammed the Fouche Maline River five miles north of Wilburton and built stone picnic shelters and recreational facilities along the eastern bank of the new 46-acre lake. Lying beneath the scenic Sans Bois Mountains, Lake Carlton sits amid some of the most picturesque scenery in the region. Pine forests and rocky cliffs ideal for hiking, rock climbing and wildlife viewing make Lake Carlton one of the best locations in the area to spend some quality time with the great out-of-doors.

Lake Carlton lies wholly within Robbers Cave State Park. The 8,246-acre park actually contains three lakes in total. Adding Lake Wayne Wallace and Coon Creek Lake nearby, the state park offers a combined 189 acres of water surface. Lake Carlton is named in honor of Carlton Weaver, a state legislator from Wilburton who devoted much of his career to assuring the state park was created. Several camping areas are located within the state park which contains a lodge with rental rooms, cabins, playground, amphitheater, nature center, miniature and disk golf, camp store, RV dump, showers and full-service hook-ups. A separate equestrian campground allows horse owners to camp with their horses and ride the miles of horseback trails. A rental stable in the park rents horses for riding on some of the trails. A group campground is available for youth groups, and the lodge holds meeting rooms and banquet facilities. Reservations can be made in advance for lodge rooms, cabins, campsites and facilities use.

A boat ramp serves private boat launchers, and the concession rents canoes, kayaks and paddleboats. The lake is too small for water sports such as water skiing. A swimming beach offers plenty of space to cool off on a hot day, and picnic pavilions provide a shady spot for a picnic. Designated a state park in 1935, the grounds still hold a number of well-maintained stone and timber buildings built by the CCC. The two-mile shoreline is a great place to spot native waterfowl, wildlife and songbirds. One popular event held at the park is the Annual Cardboard Boat Race, where homemade cardboard boats compete to stay afloat and pass the other contestants in friendly competition and knee-slapping hilarity. In the spring, an annual Easter Egg Hunt is provided for area children.

Fishing is a popular activity at Lake Carlton. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife stocks the lake with channel catfish and trout. The lake also holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, crappie and bream. An annual Trout Derby is held during trout season just below the dam. All Oklahoma fishing regulations are in effect, and anglers must possess the appropriate license. Private boats must carry a state registration sticker. Many supplies can be purchased at the camp store. Lake Carlton is the perfect spot to spend a few days in the campground or a cabin and fish from rental canoes or paddleboats.

A number of trails throughout the park provide plenty of room for walking, hiking and mountain biking. Many of the more strenuous trails along the west shore of the lake travel through interesting sandstone formations and up steps built into narrow passages. Via these trails, hikers can reach a number of scenic vantage points to look out over the lake to the mountains beyond. In autumn, the hardwoods in the area add bright splashes of scarlet and gold to the green of the pines. And one hike nearly everyone takes is the one to the famous Robbers Cave that overlooks Lake Carlton. For those less mobile, a road travels up to a parking area near the caves. Those with an adventurous nature will find plenty of opportunities for rock climbing and rappelling. Robbers Cave Wildlife Management Area abuts the southeast portion of the state park, offering another 6,180 acres of public land for wildlife viewing and nature exploration. The area holds deer, bear and a wide assortment of smaller mammals.

Local legend has long claimed that famous outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr used the cave as a hideout between bank-or train-robbing forays. The date of 1871 is carved into a wall of the cave, and looking out of the entrance gives a breathtaking view over the mountains and lakes below. There is no proof that any of these famous outlaws ever came to the cave, but the legend has persisted for over 100 years. Certainly Belle, Jesse and the Younger brothers did occasionally work together and passed through the area regularly, so the story is at least plausible. Younger kids will definitely be excited at the thought of visiting the notorious hideout.

Another item of unusual interest can be found an hour away at Heavener Runestone Park. The famous runestone has been the subject of much scholarly debate since its discovery in the 1870s. Some reports say that the carved stone was first discovered in 1832 by a Choctaw hunting party. None could read the strange carvings until researchers claimed that it contained Viking runes. Since that time, researchers have gone back and forth as to its authenticity. At the current time, most scholars believe it to be an early hoax, but the stone remains shrouded in mystery. The idea that Viking explorers visited southeastern Oklahoma a thousand years ago excites the imaginations of the curious. The stone is located in the City of Heavener in a city-maintained park that is open days.

Lake Carlton and its scenic surroundings is a fine place to spend a week or more. If visitors want more accommodations than a campsite or cabin, the lodge offers very comfortable rooms. The surrounding area holds many RV parks, guest cottages and small motels. The small city of Wilburton has several hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts. Small and quaint museums in the area can make this trip a real adventure into little-known history, some possibly bordering on myth. The Lutie Coal Miners Museum, rodeos, the Robbers Cave Fall Festival and other events all offer unusual experiences not often encountered. You may like the laid-back, small rural town atmosphere so much that you look for real estate nearby. So pick up the fishing rod, pack the hiking boots and come on down to Lake Carlton.

Things to do at Lake Carlton

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Playground

Fish species found at Lake Carlton

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Trout

Lake Carlton Photo Gallery

Lake Carlton Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Oklahoma Division of State Parks

Surface Area: 46 acres

Shoreline Length: 2 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 714 feet

Water Volume: 552 acre-feet

Spread the word! Share our Lake Carlton article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.