Tenkiller Lake, Oklahoma, USA
Also known as: Lake Tenkiller, Tenkiller Ferry Lake
Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Tenkiller Lake.
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Tenkiller Lake visitor and community guide
Tenkiller Lake is an amazing place filled with fascinating history and natural beauty in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. There’s tons of fun to be had on this 12,900-acre reservoir with 130 miles of shoreline. The lake was formed in the 1950’s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Tenkiller Ferry Dam on the Illinois River for flood control and hydroelectric power generation.
For hundreds of years, the Tenkiller Lake area has been a place where Native Americans resided – first the Caddo and Osage, then the Cherokee nation. The lake got its unique name from the Tenkillers, a Cherokee family who owned land where the Tenkiller Ferry Dam was built. The Tenkiller name supposedly originated from a Cherokee warrior who had ten notches on his bow.
Many opportunities await at the lake for outdoor enthusiasts. Anglers will find Tenkiller Lake and the Illinois River superb places to fish for bass, crappie, catfish, and walleye. Plus, there are a few heated fishing docks, so you don’t have to stop fishing even in the winter! The lake area is also popular with hunters in search of whitetail deer, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and squirrels.
If you enjoy being on the water, options at this activity-friendly lake include sailing, power boating. waterskiing, jetskiing, and wakeboarding. The Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Oklahoma provide more than 20 recreation areas scattered around the shoreline, most with boat launch ramps. Three state parks – Tenkiller State Park, Cherokee Landing State Park, and Burnt Cabin Ridge State Park – offer swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, camping, and cabin rentals. The lake also contains many islands to explore; the most famous is named Goat Island for the goats that graze at the shoreline. In addition to camping and cabin rentals, lake accommodations include hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges, and private home rentals. Dining options include three floating restaurants.
Tenkiller Lake is known for its scuba diving with many interesting places for underwater exploration. A fun scuba diving park has a sunken school bus, boats, and an airplane fuselage. Another fascinating place to explore is an area of the lake that has some historic buildings from a flooded town. Some of Lake Tenkiller’s islands also make great places for scuba diving exploration.
The area surrounding Tenkiller Lake has interesting attractions, too. Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge and Cookson Game Refuge are excellent places to spot various creatures in the wild, including bald eagles, elk, deer, and bobcats. If you enjoy hiking, there are interesting trails to explore, such as the Standing Rock Nature Trail and the Buzzard Roost Trail.
If you like history, there are various historic sites you can visit in some of the nearby towns. The Cherokee Heritage Center and the Fort Gibson Military Park are two interesting places to explore some of the area’s amazing history.
Tenkiller Lake and the surrounding area have many attractions for all interests and ages. If you want to enjoy adrenaline-pumping water activities or just relax and appreciate the scenery, Tenkiller Ferry Lake is the place to be in northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.
Custom Tenkiller Lake house decor
Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.
Things to do at Tenkiller Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Water Skiing
- Scuba Diving
- Cabin Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Wildlife Refuge
- State Park
Fish species found at Tenkiller Lake
Best hotels and vacation rentals at Tenkiller Lake
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Tenkiller Lake photo gallery
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Tenkiller Lake statistics & helpful links
Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed
Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Surface Area: 12,900 acres
Shoreline Length: 130 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 632 feet
Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet
Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 667 feet
Maximum Depth: 165 feet
Water Volume: 677,000 acre-feet
Completion Year: 1953
Drainage Area: 1,610 sq. miles
Trophic State: Eutrophic
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