Grand Lake, OK

Grand Lake, Oklahoma

Grand Lake O' The Cherokees is one of the premiere lakes in the Midwest and the crown jewel of a chain of lakes in the northeastern Oklahoma region. It was created in 1940 with GRDA's completion of Pensacola Dam.

Its 46,500 surface acres of water are ideal for boating, skiing, fishing, swimming and sailing. In fact, the lake, which lies in a southwest to northeast direction, is popular with sailboat enthusiasts wishing to take advantage of the prevailing wind.

With 1,300 miles of shoreline meandering through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, everything from bustling lakeside communities to quiet secluded coves and lakeside resorts can be found along its shore. Grand and GRDA's Lake Hudson are the only two major lakes in the state where residents can own lakefront property on the water's edge.

Grand is consistently ranked among the top lakes for bass fishing in the region and is also a haven for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife.

Entertainment abounds in the Grand Lake Area. Visitors can enjoy cruising the lake on an authentic paddlewheel riverboat, experience horseback riding and hay rides, attend a live outdoor amphitheater production, visit an internationally known Japanese garden, and participate in high-stakes electronic bingo and off track betting.

You can also visit an historic antique museum featuring over one hundred reconstructed turn-of-the-century cabins and village shops. The shores of Grand Lake boast many championship golf courses, both private and public, some with fabulous vistas of the lake.

And, of course there is a wide variety of boating and fishing fun to be experienced, including parasailing, personal water craft rental, fishing guides to help you find the best spots to cast a line, as well as luxurious yachts for hire, complete with captain.

Several state parks in the area feature reserved waterfront campsites for complete family fun.

Grand Lake is also a great place to catch extreme 4x4 action. Nearly every weekend, you can find all types of "rigs" playing at the base of Pensacola Dam in Langely and Disney.

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Grand Lake Fishing

Grand Lake Fishing
Grand Lake FishingFishing is by far the most popular sporting activity on Grand Lake, and you have the ability to enjoy this favorite pastime all year 'round. It has been said that October to April are the best months for catching the ever- popular Crappie. With the many enclosed fishing docks throughout the Grand Lake area, you don't have to worry about braving the cold. Sit back and relax 24 hours a day in these heated docks.

-Text by Harold Copeland

Largemouth Bass - Grand Lake is one of the best bass lakes in Oklahoma. Bass can be taken twelve months a year, the best month being June, but May through September are all good months. Bass spend the winter months in deep water, 24 to 30 feet deep. When the surface water temperature reaches 60 degrees, the bass move into shallow water in the coves. Depending on weather, this generally occurs between Arpil 15 and May 5. At this time, they can be caught on shallow running crank baits and surface lures. The bass spawning begins when the water temperature reaches 62 degrees. After spawning, the bass move to the willows and shallow rocky points. They can be taken on spinner and buzz baits, plastic worms, jig and frog, crank baits and surface lures. As the water temperature approaches 75 degrees, the fish move to deep points, bluffs, underwater brush piles and boat docks. The same lure pattern holds true. This pattern will hold until late September or early October. When water temperatures cool to 70 degrees, the bass move back to shallow coves and shallow brush. Medium and shallow running crank baits work well. When water temperatures get down to approximately 56 degrees, the fish move back to deep water.

White Bass - This sporty little fish rarely gets above three pounds, but a two pounder will test your tackle. They are the first to spawn in late February or early March and like to spawn in running water. During this period, a good place to catch them is the upper end of Elk River, Spring River and Neosho River above Twin Bridges. Large numbers of White Bass have been taken below the low water dam on the Neosho in Miami, Oklahoma. After spawning, White Bass move to deep flats and underwater islands. Schools can be found in 20' - 30' of water. Use jugging spoons straight up and down. By the middle of August when the shad have reached the size of minnows, the White Bass move to the shallows. They are easy to catch trolling or casting on windy points and gravel shorelines. They can be taken with white or light blue jigs, with or without a float, light-colored Roadrunners, white or yellow Roostertails, and, on occasion, top water lures. Try 1/4 oz. Vibric Roostertail in chartrueuse or white Tiny Torpedoes. This action generally lasts until the first of December - at this time the White Bass go back to deep water and can be caught on jigging spoons.

Spotted Bass - This fish is locally referred to as a Kentucky bass. This bass follows about the same water temperature changes as the largemouth, although he likes rocky ledges and is generally caught in deeper water than the largemouth. This fish can be distinguished by a rough spot on the tongue, and his mouth does not extend past his eye. Best lures are jig and pork, salt craws, plastic worms, deep jerk baits and spring lizards.

White Crappie - Grand Lake is known throughout the Midwest as a fine Crappie lake, where they can be caught twelve months a year. Some of the larger Crappie are caught in winter months from fishing docks with brush around them and in deep sunken brush. Most public brush piles are marked on the shoreline. Crappie spawn in 55-60 degrees water, temperatures generally occurring in April. As Crappie spawn in shallow water two to four feet deep, they are easy to catch and are the finest eating fish in our lake. A good time to Crappie fish is March along the bank in shallow brush, and in April along the shallow gravel banks in the coves. A small, light-colored jig fished 18 inches under a float works well. My favorites are 1/16 and 1/32 oz. light-colored Tube and Marabou jigs. During hot sumer months and deep brush, outside or inside fishing docks in 15-25 feet of water. Live minnows work well during all these conditions.

Bluegill - Bluegill are a favorite with children. They are well represented in Grand Lake but do not grow to a large size, average four to seven ounces. They are caught during summer months around boat docks and along rocky shorelines. Most are caught on bait. Good baits are earthworms, grub worms, insect larvae, crickets and grasshoppers. Small flies or corkbody popping bugs work well on a fly rod.

Channel Catfish - Catfish abound in Grand Lake, and can be caught through December in many way - trotlines, throw lines, limb lines, jug lines or rod and reel. Good baits are beef liver, chicken liver, blood bait, stink bait, live minnows, live crawfish, crappie entrails and shad. My favorite way to catch Channel is to drift fish with fresh shad for bait. Drift flats in five-fifteen feet of water most anytime of day or night. Channel spawn when water temperature reache 75 degrees (late May or early June). During spawn, Channel can be caught around rock fills, breakwater fills, and bridge fills.

Hybrid Striper - This species, a cross between a White Bass and a Striper, does not reproduce and has to be stocked each year to keep the population up. Therefore, the count can be controlled. Hybrids have been stocked in Grand Lake since 1982. The Wildlife Conservation Department netted some in the four-pound class in the Spring of 1984. These fish grew to a maximum of 20 pounds after fourteen years and are providing some wonderful sport fishing. Best baits are live or fresh shad fished in 20 to 30 feet of water, large jigs, deep running crank baits and jigging spoons.

Grand Lake Boating

Grand Lake Boating
Grand Lake BoatingGrand Lake O' the Cherokees boasts over 30 full service marinas and boat dealers. You can enjoy everything from a comfortable, friendly fishing camp style marina to luxurious yacht clubs with every service imaginable.

Many marinas offer fishing guides, boat and personal watercraft rentals, parasailing, and chartered yachts. These marinas offer a full line of boat services, equipment and repairs. You'll find a lively selection of fun summertime apparel and nautical gift items in most marina ship stores. Several marinas also feature fine dining with boat slips for guests arriving by water, and even live entertainment.

The over 60,000 members of the United States Power Squadrons are men and women who share an interest in recreational boating - both sail and power - and a commitment to safe boating. The recently formed Grand Lake Sail and Power Squadron is one of 450 squadrons that make up the United States Power Squadrons.

Squadron activities include boating education opportunities for members; community service, including boating courses offered to the public; and on and off the water social activities.

The USPS Boating Course and the BoatSmart Course are offered several times each year on Grand Lake. Most insurance companies offer discounts of 5% to 15% on boat insurance premiums for those who pass these courses.

Grand Lake Cruises

Cherokee Queen I & II
Cherokee Queen I & IICherokee Queen I has been one of Grand Lake's most popular and unique attractions sinceshewas assembled and launched in 1945. Over the years, her original charm and character have been enhanced so thqtshe really is reminiscent of the heyday of riverboats on the mississippi. This twin-decked, 67' boat welcomed a new, larger sister ship in late '89. the Cherokee Queen II is 108' long, 47' high and weighs 168 tons. she can accommodate 390 passengers for dinner. Three decks, two dance floors, three snack bars and beautiful wood paneling add to the attractive decor throughout. The Cherokee Queen II was honored asthe "Attraction of the Year" by the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association in 1989.

Air-conditioning and heating assure comfort in any kind of weather. A delicious buffet served on dinner cruises and special charters features rounds of beef, chicken, fresh salads and delicious desserts.

The Cherokee Queen provides a memorable setting for any type of get-together - from weddings and birthdays to church outings, sorority fun, family reunions or field trips for school children to view the pelicans. Burises glide past beautiful homes, Shangri-LaResort, Har-Ber Village and the inspiring lakeside scenery of high bluffs and gently slping landscapes.

The Cherokee Queen's docking area is located at Sailboat Bridge in Grove. Once you arrive, the Cherokee Landing has ample room with a sanck bar and gift shop to enjoy whilewaiting for the next departure.

Grand Lake Structural Landmarks

Pensacola Dam
Pensacola DamPensacola Dam was the first hydroelectric facility in the state. GRDA built the dam between December 30, 1938, and March 21, 1940, when depression-era labor was abundant. It is located between the communities of Langley and Disney, spanning a mile across the Grand River Valley and holding back the 43,500 acres of water that form Grand Lake O' the Cherokees.

In an effort to increase reliability while holding down maintenance costs at Pensacola Dam, the Grand River Dam Authority began a major upgrade project there in the fall of 1997. Though they are Oklahoma's oldest hydroelectric turbine generators, the six units at Pensacola Dam have performed admirably at the facility for over 50 years. However, increased production capability following the upgrade ensures that they will play a vital role in the GRDA generation system for the next 50 years and beyond. A new design of turbine runners and turbine shafts, rewound generators, new excitation equipment, transformers and cable were included in the upgrade.

The Grand River Dam Authority offers FREE tours of historic Pensacola Dam to the general public. During the summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays), tours are given five days a week, originating from the GRDA Lake Patrol office, located above the powerhouse on the west end of the dam. Call the Lake Patrol for exact days and time during the summer.

Grand Lake State Parks

Disney/Little Blue State Park
Extremely popular for its wealth of recreational activities and its abundant fishing opportunities, 46,300 acre Grand Lake is one of northeast Oklahoma's most popular vacation destinations.

The southeast shoreline area of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, just two blocks from Disney, is the scenic location for this two park area. Disney State Park area is located by the flood gates of the magnificent Pensacola Dam. With the only boat ramp in the area, 20-acre Disney State Park is a popular site for bass fishing tournaments (as well as all watersports), and offers picnic areas, a group picnic shelter, a small playground, a lighted boat ramp, and 45 tent/outdoor camping sites.

The 12.5-acre Little Blue State Park is located below the spillway, another fine fishing site as only fishing boats with small trolling motors are allowed. There are a few picnic areas and 35 tent/outdoor campsites available. Both are excellent locations for the avid fisherman.

Disney is a good starting point for a Grand Lake getaway. Friendly merchants provide a good selection of camping and water sports equipment. Grand Lake vacationers can stock up on everything they need - from fishing tackle to picnic supplies. Shoppers will also find gifts and groceries as well as boat sales and service.

Grand Lake State Parks

Bernice State Park
Bernice State ParkBernice State Park is located on the water front of Grand Lake, an area described as the "Crappie Fishing Capitol of the State." Located on the northwestern corner of Grand Lake, this State Park is famous for its gradual tapering and shallow swim areas with smooth pebble beaches and has become a popular spot for families with small children. The park has a lighted boat ramp and offers fishing for largemouth bass, white bass, channel catfish and bluegill. Visitors can enjoy picnics, camping, a playground and a 2-mile walking and jogging path.

The 88-acre park has 231 campsites from primitive to semi-modern with electric and water and a dump facility.

Grand Lake State Parks

Cherokee State Park
Cherokee State ParkCherokee State Park is located in northeastern Oklahoma on the shores of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. Grand Lake is one of Oklahoma's largest lakes with over 59,000 surface acres and 1,300 miles of shoreline. Grand Lake's Pensacola Dam was constructed in 1940 and is considered to be the longest multiple arch dam in the world.

Facilities include 34 electric/water hookups, primitive sites, restrooms/showers, sanitary dump stations, picnic areas, group shelters, boat ramps, swimming beach, playground, scuba diving.

Cherokee Area #1, 26 acres in size, is located below Pensacola Dam, in the riverside area of Grand River. Features include picnic sites (1 group shelter), 68 campsites, 2 comfort stations - 1 with showers, a lighted boat ramp, and a nine hole golf course.

Cherokee Area #2, 2.5 acres in size, is located on the east side (upper side) of the Pensacola dam, off SH 28. It features an excellent swimming beach and includes picnic sites (1 group shelter), 22 campsites, a comfort station with showers, a playground, and a lighted boat ramp.

Cherokee Area #3, 15 acres in size is located 1/2 mile east of the dam on SH 28. The main park office is located in Cherokee #3. It has a small swimming beach, picnic sites (1 group shelter), 24 campsites, and a comfort station with showers. All water sports (including scuba diving) are allowed on Grand Lake making this an attractive camping area.

Grand Lake State Parks

Honey Creek State Park
Honey Creek State ParkOn the shores of Grand Lake 'O The Cherokees, in the city limits of Grove, OK, Honey Creek State Park is approximately 38 acres and with its full bloom of Dogwood and Redbud trees, is especially beautiful in the spring. The park offers excellent fishing opportunities for bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill and spoonbill.

Honey Creek provides access to Grand Lake for fishing, boating, water skiing, and other lake activities from a lighted boat ramp. Picnic facilities, including 3 shelters, 404 campsites, 5 comfort stations, 4 of which have showers, a playground, 2 mile walking path, and a swimming pool are also on site.

Although the campgrounds are always open year round, only one comfort station remains open during winter.

Grand Lake Birdwatching

Grand Lake Migratory Fowl
Grand Lake Migratory FowlThe American White Pelican - Pelicans have lived in our world for over 35,000,000 years and have changed very little in that period of time - a truly pre-historic creature. We are fortunate in the Grand Lake area that the American White Pelican spends time here during both spring and fall migration. They have adapted well to the many reservoirs in Oklahoma, enjoying the abundance of gizzard shad and other non-gamefish, as well as the many quiet secluded areas where they may rest undistrubed by people.

During Fall migration, the birds arrive in our area in mid to late September, staying until November. Here they rest and feed before flying on to their winter home along the gulf of Mexico. The Pelicans are usually sighted on the northern end of the lake in the Twin Bridges area near Wyandotte and gradually move down the lake as more of the flock arrives.

As with all wild creatures their whereabouts can be hard to predict as they might be found in the shallows anywhere on the lake. However, here are a few favorite spots they can be found:

- On either side of Sailboat Bridge on US 59 North of Grove
- In Elk River area near Number 10 Bridge on Hwy 10 northeast of Grove
- In Carey Bay on west side of Grove
- In Honey Creek at the south edge of Grove
- In Horse Creek near Bernice
- In the Twin Bridges area near Wyandotte
- In the Wolf Creek area at City Park off 16th Strteet in Grove
- In the Grand River below the Pensacola Dam at the south end of the lake
- Shallow end of Drowning Creek in a south end arm of the lake

White Pelicans are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Bald Eagles - Oklahoma is an important wintering area for the bald eagle and GRDA is fortunate to be able to provide habitat to support their presence. In early December, the first of many bald eagles to spend part of their winter in the Grand Lake and Lake Hudson areas was spotted below Pensacola Dam and they are also finding their way to the tailrace waters below Robert S. Kerr Dam.

Most of the migrating eagles in northeastern Oklahoma come from Canada and the Great Lake states. Their numbers should peak in January through February before they head north in mid-March.

The best GRDA viewing areas vary from year to year. However, the waters below Kerr and Pensacola dams are always a good bet. The eagles like to perch in tall trees below the dams until they are ready to feed. The best time to view the eagles is in the early morning, especially when GRDA is generating at the dams.

Migratory Fowl - In 1994, GRDA began an innovative seeding project along the shores of Grand Lake. By dropping the lake to an elevation of 741 feet (above sea level), thousands of acres of mudflat areas were exposed. GRDA then used a cropduster plane to seed these mudflat areas with 10,000 pounds of Japanese millet. For a month following the seeding, the lake was kept at the lower level to allow the seed to germinate and grow. GRDA then raised the lake back to its normal elevation allowing acres and acres of new vegetation to serve as a food source for the various species of migratory waterfowl that pass through the Grand Lake area in the fall and winter. And below the surface, the rich vegetation serves as protective cover for the young fish that are hatched out each spring. The project began in 1994 and was expected to last five years.

The millet seeding project benefits several different species. Biologists sighted Canda Geese, Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Gadwalls, Widgeons, Pintails, Redheads, Wood Ducks, Cormorants, Pelicans, Mergansers, Grebes, Ruddy Ducks, Goldeneyes, Lesser Scaups, Ringnecks, Canvasbacks, Buffleheads, Shovelers, White-fronted Geese, Loons and other species around the lake when the last survey was done a few years ago. The cooling and settling ponds on the grounds of GRDA's Coal-Fired Complex are also a haven for Canada Geese.

Grand Lake ORV Areas

Grand Lake 4 x 4 Action
Grand Lake 4 x 4  ActionIf extreme 4x4 action is what you want, Grand Lake offers plenty to keep you satisfied! From rugged wooded trails to sheer rock faces, the base of Pensacola Dam has terrain for any type of vehicle. Throughout the year, you will find drivers testing their abilities in such places as the "Rock Garden" and the "Nose Dive."

From local jeep clubs to multi-state jamborees, there is always excitement to be found at Pensacola Dam. Lodging and facilities are available throughout the year, so don't miss the action!