Lake Thunderbird, Oklahoma, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Oklahoma - Frontier Country -

Also known as:  Thunderbird Reservoir, Thunderbird Lake

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.

Things to do at Lake Thunderbird OK

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Fishing Tournaments
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Lake Thunderbird OK

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Saugeye Perch
  • Sunfish

Lake Thunderbird OK Photo Gallery

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Lake Thunderbird OK Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 6,070 acres

Shoreline Length: 86 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,039 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,010 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,049 feet

Average Depth: 19 feet

Maximum Depth: 58 feet

Water Volume: 171,300 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1965

Water Residence Time: 2.17 years

Drainage Area: 256 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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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.


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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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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