Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, Oklahoma, USA
Also known as: Kerr Lake
Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir.
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Robert S. Kerr Reservoir visitor and community guide
The Robert S Kerr Reservoir, located in east-central Oklahoma, is one of the most popular recreation destinations spanning the state’s Green Country and Kaimichi Country tourism regions. The reservoir consists of 43,800 acres of water-based fun for visitors. All types of water sports are enjoyed here, including sailing, power boating, water skiing, personal watercraft, wind surfing, swimming and house boating.
Completed in 1970, the Robert S Kerr Lock and Dam contain water from the Arkansas River, just downstream from its confluence with the Canadian River. Named for a former Governor of Oklahoma who was instrumental in getting legislation passed to fund the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, the lock lifts vessels 48 feet. Boats entering the lower pool at an elevation of 412 feet must be raised to 460 feet at the upper pool. The dam also generates hydroelectric power. The Army Corps of Engineers, in keeping with their desire to provide recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat holds 10,790 acres of land around Robert S Kerr Reservoir’s eastern half for public hunting. The western half of nearly 10,000 acres is assigned to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, giving the Refuge a total of 20,800 acres under protection. The portion under Corps control contains five public use areas, with campgrounds, rest rooms, picnic shelters and boat ramps. Three beach areas are set aside for swimmers. A concession-operated marina supplies boaters’ needs, including repairs for larger watercraft. Observation decks at the Visitors Center provide an excellent view of barges and pleasure craft as they pass through the lock. Truly, everything is provided here to make the water lover’s visit a pleasant one.
Because of the seven-mile length, Robert S Kerr Lake is a favorite with sailing fans. And the 250 miles of shoreline, including many coves and inlets make house boating especially pleasurable. Located on the Central Flyway migratory route, the lake is visited by a very large variety of migrating birds and waterfowl. It isn’t unusual to have thousands of snow geese stop by on their way north or south. The wild craggy shoreline is an excellent place to spot wildlife and no boater will want to weight anchor without binoculars and camera. Hiking trails are available at both the eastern section of Corps property and the Wildlife Refuge. The latter has several self-guided walking tours and an auto route with information on areas the visitor is passing. Hundreds of varieties of birds, mammals and fish call the Refuge home . . .although many are too small and too secretive to be seen without knowing where to look. In addition to the expected white-tail deer, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, squirrels opossum, woodchucks and fox, the Refuge holds a population of that most elusive marsupial, the armadillo. Often nocturnal, the armadillo is odd-enough looking as to startle a northern visitor. Oklahoma is the northern edge of its range.
No lake would be complete without sport fishing and Robert S Kerr Reservoir is not an exception. Channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass (striper), sunfish, walleye, and white bass are the usual objects of the angler’s attentions. Many fishing visitors also visit the area around Gore a couple of miles away and known as the Trout Capital of Oklahoma. Rainbow trout are planted weekly in spring in the Illinois River at three nearby sites. The entire waterway is known to be an especially prolific fish provider when spring water releases bring spawning striped bass in large numbers. This spawning activity takes place as far as Webbers Falls Lock and Dam – the next dam upstream.
Hunting is permitted on much of the Corps property and certain sections of the Refuge. Some islands in Kerr Lake are off-limits due to species preservation. Complete regulations can be obtained from the Visitors Centers at both facilities.
With the majority of shoreline under Corps ownership, there are few vacation rentals directly on the lakefront. However, visitors can find a houseboat for rent on Robert S Kerr Reservoir, and there is real estate available in the near vicinity of the lake. Many vacation rentals may be found in nearby towns such as Sallisaw, Gore, or Spiro. Nearby lakes such as Tenkiller and Greenleaf often have vacation rentals available with lake views. The marina makes it easy to leave the boat at Robert S Kerr overnight.
The surrounding area is well-supplied with State Parks. Within about 20 miles, there are Tenkiller State Park and Burnt Cabin Ridge State Park at Tenkiller Reservoir, Sallisaw State Park at Brushy Creek Reservoir and Greenleaf Lake State Park at Greenleaf Reservoir. When visiting Robert S Kerr Reservoir you can take a peek at all of them.
No well-rounded vacation would be complete without at least one day spent exploring the surrounding area. The area around Robert S Kerr Reservoir is filled with little-known history. Sallisaw is only eight miles from the lake and will fit into the history buff’s itinerary very well. Sallisaw as some will remember, was the starting point for the Joads in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. In truth, however, Sallisaw did reasonably well during the Dust Bowl because of the many lakes and wooded hills in the region. Sallisaw is also the home of the great Cherokee leader and scholar, Sequoyah; the only person ever known to have invented an entire syllabic alphabet, allowing his people to read and write in their native tongue. His hand-built cabin is preserved here. The Overstreet-Kerr Historical Farm is a completely restored and furnished early 19th century farmstead, complete down to kitchen utensils, potato house, herb gardens and heirloom varieties of fruits and livestock.
Thirteen miles southeast of Robert S Kerr Reservoir is the Spiro Mounds Archeological Park. This 150-acre site encompasses 12 mounds which contain evidence of an Indian culture that occupied the site from 850 A.D. to 1450 A.D. An Interpretive center displays examples of artifacts found at the mounds and explains their significance.
A bit farther afield, but only about an hour’s drive away from Robert S Kerr Reservoir, is Muskogee. One of the areas settled early by Native Americans, the town hosts two museums dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the tribes who lived here. The Ataloa Lodge Museum on the Bacone College campus houses a large collection of Native American art. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum recounts the history of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes who were forced to move to Oklahoma’s Indian Territory after the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S.S. Batfish War Memorial features an actual WWII submarine that can be toured. Nearby Fort Gibson, the earliest fort in Oklahoma Territory, is being restored and is open for visitors. Muskogee also hosts the Muskogee Air Show each October and the Renaissance Faire held at “The Castle” each May. There is never a shortage of things to see and do in Muskogee.
Although the history of Robert S Kerr Reservoir is just beginning, it simply means there are opportunities for you to make your own history here. Schedule the vacation, find a vacation rental and come on down. Rainbow trout and striped bass await you, History Maker!
Custom Robert S. Kerr Reservoir house decor
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Things to do at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir
- Vacation Rentals
- Water Skiing
- Wind Surfing
- Cabin Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Wildlife Refuge
- State Park
Fish species found at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir
- Black Bass
- Channel Catfish
- Largemouth Bass
- Rainbow Trout
- Spotted Bass
- Striped Bass
- White Bass
Best hotels and vacation rentals at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir
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Robert S. Kerr Reservoir photo gallery
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Robert S. Kerr Reservoir statistics & helpful links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Surface Area: 43,800 acres
Shoreline Length: 250 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 460 feet
Average Depth: 12 feet
Maximum Depth: 52 feet
Water Volume: 525,688 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1971
Drainage Area: 147,756 sq. miles
Trophic State: Eutrophic
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