Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, Oklahoma, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Southwest - Oklahoma - Green Country - Kiamichi Country -

Also known as:  Kerr Lake

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!

Things to do at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Photo Gallery

    Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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    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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    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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