Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (2022)

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (1)

— Grand Lake O’the Cherokees, Oklahoma — The warm sun kisses the skin and leaves behind a pink glow—cool water splashes on the just-warmed skin. The sun creates shimmering crystals on the blue canvas of the lake. Bass boats skim across the water, leaving a white wake behind. In coves, sailboats glide silently over the still waters.

Every spring, lake lovers eagerly await these summer sensations. Oklahoma gets hot in the summer. Fortunately, with over 200 lakes from which to choose, outdoor enthusiasts manage to make the most of the heat. Grand Lake O’the Cherokees is one of the larger lakes in the state.

Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, simply referred to as Grand Lake, lies in the state’s northeast corner. Before Oklahoma became a state, a member of the Cherokee tribe saw Grand River’s viability to provide flood control and hydroelectric power to the Cherokee Nation. He worked to gain support for the project for many years. Years later, the dream was realized, and the Pensacola Dam was finally completed in 1940. Grand Lake was created and has been enjoyed by many since that time.

Along the 1,300 miles of shoreline are several small towns that have a distinct lake vibes. One popular place is Monkey Island—not really an island, but a peninsula. An early visitor to this area of the lake commented that “over there will be Monkey Island, where the monkeys will be.” The Tulsa World heard it and reported it. Even without the monkeys—unless referring to those of us living here—the name remained.

Duck Creek is another popular area. It is home to the Cherokee and Arrowhead Yacht Clubs. The abundance of coves on this lake provides small areas for skiing or tubing, fishing, or just throwing out the anchor and soaking up sun.

Grand Lake is an easy 80-mile trip north from Tulsa on I44 or a 50-mile trip south from Joplin, Missouri, on I44. Grand Lake Regional Airport on Monkey Island or South Grand Lake Regional Airport in Ketchum offers private plane access. Here are some of the things to discover at the lake.

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Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (2)

1. On the Water

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (3)

Being out on the water ranks at the top of the list for lake enthusiasts. Boaters can ease their private boats into the water at the many boat ramps around the lake. Numerous marinas also rent watercraft. H2O Sports Rental, Duck Creek Boat Club, and Sail Grand Waterfront offer jet skis, ski boats, pontoons, and yacht charters with all the appropriate accessories and water toys.

Many boaters find a cove and tie their boat up with other boats. Adults can relax while the kids wear themselves out playing in the protected area.

For the adventurous, try parasailing at Sail Grand Waterfront, located at the very end of Monkey Island.

For those desiring a quiet, more serene lake experience, the southwest to the northeast placement of the lake provides prevailing winds perfect for sailing.

2. Shangri-La Resort & Spa

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (4)

Have a resort-centered vacation in mind? Shangri-La Resort and Spa will not disappoint. The 119-room resort sits at the tip of Monkey Island.

Golf enthusiasts perfect their game on the 27-hole championship golf course while sun-seekers lounge out by the “ultra-luxe” pool. Kids will be thrilled to have their own water park complete with slides and a large bucket of water that fills and then drenches the squealing kids below as they eagerly await the next drenching.

In the Spring of 2021, the resort will complete an 11,000 square foot activity center—The Anchor—with virtual reality golf and shooting simulators, escape rooms, and more.

Three restaurants offer various menus: Eddy’s Lakeside Bar, Doc’s Bar & Grill, and The Summit Restaurant (a member-only club, but open to guests of the resort.

Don’t forget to decompress at the spa. WEBSITE

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3. Grand Lake – Har-Ber Village Museum

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (5)

Enjoy a self-guided tour through this pioneer-era village located right on the lake 5-miles from downtown Grove. A pathway winds its way through small buildings and cabins housing over 100 exhibits. Antique farm equipment, coaches, carriages, and wagons remind us of an era past. A display of dolls— ranging from China head dolls, Madame Alexander, Cabbage Patch, and more enchant viewers.

There is an exhibit of depression glass, cut crystal glass, and many others that will delight the glass and pottery enthusiasts. Military presentations lead us through a history of uniforms and supplies from the Revolution to Desert Storm.

Activity stations allow children to experience historic schools, jails, and milking cows hands-on. The addition of a nature trail provides an opportunity to appreciate this beautiful lakeside setting. WEBSITE

4. GRDA Ecosystem & Education Center

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (6)

Located at the Pensacola Dam in the lake’s southern area between Disney and Langley, the Center provides free tours of the historic dam built in the late 1930s. It is a multi-arch dam with 51 arches that rise 150 feet above the riverbed. It spans almost a mile.

One can get an insider view of the first hydroelectric facility in Oklahoma (listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The Center contains information about the history of the dam and lake. The Ecosystems and Education Center monitors the water quality of the lake and wildlife habitats. WEBSITE

5. Second Kick Cycle Works

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (7)

Calling all motorcycle enthusiasts. One block off Main Street in Grove lies a gem of a museum. With some 80 motorcycles, one can admire almost 50 years of vintage and antique bikes. Ever see a 1940s Whizzer or 1960 Cushman 5 H.P. 2-speed transmission?

Walk down memory lane to see motorcycles made by Sears and Montgomery Wards. View the 1948 Velocette KSS 350cc that set the speed record at Bonneville, Utah in 1952.

Bob Tryon, at the museum, is a wealth of knowledge. He won’t brag about it, but he was the race manager for BSA/Triumph in the 1970s and has built bikes from the ground up.

Jim Serage, the owner, says, “Each bike here has a story.” And these two delightful gentlemen passionately share the stories. Afterward, walk through to the Checkered Past Deli for a quick bite to eat.

6. Monkey Island Trail Rides

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (8)
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Encounter nature while taking a guided trail ride through 100-acres of pastures and woods along the lake. You may decide to take advantage of the riding lessons offered.

After working up a thirst on the trail, stop by the winery, located at the front of the grounds. Meet winemaker and owner Val Saamer to taste wines fermented and bottled on the property. Saamer is well versed in the industry, having served as a chef, food and beverage director, and wine manager at the Wine Room at the 95th Restaurant in the John Hancock Building. He moved to Grand Lake and licensed the Winery at the Ranch. Taste their “Chard-N-Hay,” “Cabern-Neigh,” “Mo-Scat-Whoa,” or any of the other aptly labeled wines. As Val will tell you, “We make good everyday wine for every “Grand” day.” Cottages are also available for rent. WEBSITE

7. Lendonwood Gardens – Grand Lake

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (9)

In early spring, this 8-acre botanical garden comes alive with color, beginning with the Azalea Garden. Pinks, lavenders, reds, and whites show off the delicate blossoms on these beautiful shrubs. Daylilies flaunt their cheerful colors later in spring in the Display Garden.

The Japanese Maples and various other trees cast their autumn hues in the fall. Stop by the beautifully crafted Japanese Pavilion overlooking the Koi pond. Kids will enjoy feeding the fish in the pool in front of the building.

The gardens are open all year round, and there is always something to appreciate. Discover the 80 types of false cypress trees or the 250 varieties of rhododendrons. A quiet, self-guided walk through the tranquil gardens at Lendonwood will bring peace to nature lovers. Paths lead through the eight botanical gardens next to trickling streams. Benches allow for time to relax and reflect. WEBSITE

8. Twin Bridges at Grand Lake

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (10)

For a more tranquil spot on the lake, try the Twin Bridges area. Two bridges on Highway 60 cross over the Neosho River and the Spring River. These two rivers converge and flow into the northern part of Grand Lake. The resulting calm waters in this area provide a quieter part of the lake.

Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular in the rivers heading north. The scenery and wildlife observed present a pleasurable backdrop. Anglers seeking to catch the plentiful bass, catfish, or bluegill know this area to be rewarding. They may try their luck at snagging a spoonbill—a rare fish in the 35-pound to 75-pound category—giving rise to some bragging rights. The Grand Lake State Park located in this stretch of the lake offers camping and playgrounds complete with volleyball and horseshoes.

9. Little Blue Area State Park

Best Things to Do in Grand Lake O'the Cherokees OK | 2022 Photos & List (11)

Seek out this almost hidden gem at the south part of Grand Lake for a more remote area. Introduce your children to the wonders of nature by camping here. Primitive camping spots tucked among the giant trees allow families to experience quiet weekends out in the country.

On hot summer days, children will love splashing in the crystal-clear creek. The shallow stream allows parents to watch them as they place their own lounge chairs in the waters under large shade trees. Waters released from the Pensacola Dam nearby create this wonderful area for families. The park is located off State Hwy 28 near Disney.

Conclusion

Grand Lake offers memory-making activities for all. There are plenty of camping and RV sites, cabins, and hotels for any type of experience. The lake area has many festivals and events throughout the year. The Pelican Festival celebrates the return of the American White Pelicans on their annual migration. Located by Disney, Hogan’s Off-Road Park offers the perfect place for ATV and ORV to climb the rock structures. Hydro boat and performance boat races excite attendees each year. Locals and visitors attend the several Fourth of July fireworks displays around the lake and later in the year wrap up in coats and hats to watch the Christmas Boat Parade.

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The area has many excellent restaurants located in the small communities around the lake in addition to those that are situated lakeside. As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operates the lake instead of the US Corp of Engineers, boats have access to various courtesy docks and businesses on the waterfront. Boaters enjoy easy docking for a quick bite or an afternoon respite at one of the many restaurants and bars before heading back out on the water.

Come and experience what Oklahomans know; one can have a “grand” time on Grand Lake.

*Opening photo ©L. VAN CLEAVE

~+~+~+~

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FAQs

What is Grand Lake Oklahoma known for? ›

Enjoy a lake excursion, take in the beautiful scenery, or camp under the stars in the surrounding Oklahoma State Parks. Or, visit one of Grand Lake's many museums and theatres. And no visit to the Grand Lake area is complete without seeing the famous Spook Light Road and World's Largest Totem Pole!

Can you kayak on Grand Lake Oklahoma? ›

Spring River Canoe Trails offers individuals primitive camping and fishing opportunities as well as the enjoyment of being on the water. The location near Grand Lake Ok offers fishing, canoeing, rafting, and even kayaking. Individuals of all ages enjoy the great outdoors at Spring River Canoe Trails.

How deep is Grand Lake OK? ›

Unlike other lakes in Oklahoma, Grand Lake is a deep and mostly rocky lake. The average depth for Grand Lake is 36.3 feet. Its mean elevation is 745 ft (227 m) above sea level.

Can you swim in Grand Lake Oklahoma? ›

Can you swim in Grand Lake? Grand Lake offers various inlets to swim in along the lake shores. Deeper lake swimming is also a choice off the boat side in separate locations throughout the lake waters. Cove swimming gives you and your family a better experience absent from lake travel.

Is there a town under Grand Lake? ›

Bernice lies along the west bank of the Horse Creek branch of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, on State Highway 85A, fourteen miles northwest of Grove, in Delaware County.

How deep is the deepest lake in Oklahoma? ›

Broken Bow is one of Oklahoma's deepest and most scenic lakes.
...
Lakes and reservoirs by size.
NameLake Texoma
Capacity in acre feet (normal pool)2,643,000
surface acres (normal pool)88,000 acres (35,612 ha)
average depth30 feet (9.1 m)
water clarityaverage to excellent
63 more columns

Do I have to tag my kayak in Oklahoma? ›

Oklahoma boat registration is also required for all watercraft, except for kayaks, canoes and paddle boats. USCG-approved safety equipment (including life-preservers) must be in use at all times while boating. Permit stickers should be adhered to each side of the boat near the stern.

What size boat requires a tag in Oklahoma? ›

Outboard motors over 10 horsepower must also be titled and registered within 30 days of purchase. You may operate your boat within the first 30 days of ownership, prior to applying for your title and registration, if you carry on board the original bill of sale.

What is required to have on a boat Oklahoma? ›

All boats operating on Oklahoma's waters are required to carry one, Coast Guard approved life jacket or PFD for each passenger on board the boat. Adults are not required to wear life jackets when boating in Oklahoma but they must have a readily accessible life jacket at all times while underway.

Is Grand Lake dirty? ›

Stephen Jacquemin, an associate professor of biology and research coordinator at Wright State University-Lake Campus, told members of the St. Marys Rotary Club on Wednesday that Grand Lake had been one of the most nutrient-polluted lakes in the nation.

What is the water temperature of Grand Lake Oklahoma? ›

Grand Lake O' the Cherokees's current water temperature is 81°F.

Who owns Grand Lake? ›

Grand Lake Casino is owned by Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.

Can you swim in Grand Lake O the Cherokees? ›

Grand Lake O' the Cherokees State Park has sites for both tents and RVs. There is also a boat ramp and swimming area within the park. The Grand Lake in Oklahoma has over 1300 miles of shoreline, so you can imagine that there are many, many places to camp.

Is there white sand in Oklahoma? ›

You can find Lake Texoma on the border of Oklahoma and Texas. At 89,000 acres, it's one of the largest reservoirs in the country, and it has over six million visitors every year. That's because its beaches are nearly indistinguishable from the ocean with white sands similar to the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the closest ocean beach to Tulsa OK? ›

The closest beach to Oklahoma with saltwater is in Galveston, Texas. Galveston is roughly seven and a half hours from Oklahoma City.

Are there any ghost towns in Oklahoma? ›

Oklahoma has long been the center of lore and legend. Our state is full of haunted places that would terrify even the bravest of thrill seekers, including over 2,000 ghost towns.

Did Oklahoma used to be an ocean? ›

From the Cambrian to the Devonian, Oklahoma was covered by a sea. Cambrian life of Oklahoma included brachiopods, graptolites, sponges, and trilobites. Oklahoma's Ordovician life included several species of brachiopods, bryozoans, echinoderms, conodonts, and ostracods.

What towns are around Grand Lake? ›

Cities on Grand Lake O' The Cherokees
  • Afton.
  • Bernice.
  • Big Cabin.
  • Commerce.
  • Disney.
  • Eucha.
  • Fairland.
  • Grove.

What is the cleanest lake in Oklahoma? ›

Beautiful spring-fed Lake Murray features 5,700 surface acres and is one of the clearest lakes in Oklahoma. The lake is located wholly within the 12,500-acre Lake Murray State Park.

What is the deepest lake in USA? ›

At 1,943 feet (592 meters), Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest in the world. The depths were first explored thoroughly in 1886 by a party from the U.S. Geological Survey.

What is the deepest lake on Earth? ›

Lake Baikal (5,315 feet [1,620 meters])

Lake Baikal, in Siberia, holds the distinction of being both the deepest lake in the world and the largest freshwater lake, holding more than 20% of the unfrozen fresh water on the surface of Earth.

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Oklahoma? ›

Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Oklahoma? You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in Oklahoma when operating a vessel with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%. State law does not consider non-motorized canoes or kayaks as vessels under BUI law.

Can you drink on a boat in Oklahoma? ›

Alcohol is legal to consume on a boat, but it is illegal to operate a vessel while intoxicated. The blood alcohol limit for boating is the same as for driving a car. 08%.

Do you have to wear a lifejacket on a kayak in Oklahoma? ›

Oklahoma canoe and kayak laws allow for non-motorized vessels to be exempt from registration. However, it is mandatory for all canoes and kayaks to have onboard a life jacket for each person and a loud sound-making device like a whistle.

How much are taxes on a boat in Oklahoma? ›

Excise tax for: New boats: 3.25% of the purchase price. Used boats: 35% decrease in the taxable amount per each 1 year of the vessel's age.

Do you pay sales tax on a used boat in Oklahoma? ›

Oklahoma residents are subject to excise tax on vehicles, all terrain vehicles, boats or outboard motors purchased in another state. Nonresidents who purchase in Oklahoma are not assessed Oklahoma excise tax, provided they title and register in their state of residence.

Do I have to tag my boat in Oklahoma? ›

In Oklahoma, you must have an Oklahoma Certificate of Registration and validation decals to operate your vessel legally on public waters. The only exceptions are: Vessels that are manually propelled and do not have a motor, including canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and other similar vessels.

Is insurance required on a boat in Oklahoma? ›

While the state of Oklahoma does not mandate boat insurance, it does set forth several stipulations before you can legally operate your vessel.

How old do you have to be to not wear a lifejacket in Oklahoma? ›

Children who are 13 years of age or under are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket while underway on any boat that is less than 26 feet in length.

Do you have to wear a life jacket on a boat in Oklahoma? ›

Oklahoma law requires the following with respect to PFDs. All vessels must carry one wearable USCG–approved PFD for each person on board. In addition to the above requirement, vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one USCG–approved throwable device on board and readily accessible.

Is Grand Lake still contaminated? ›

Grand Lake toxins caused by blue-green algae bloom, province concludes. Provincial water tests have eliminated all other possible contaminants of Grand Lake, and concluded the cause of the toxins in the water is a blue-green algae bloom.

What is the most toxic lake in the US? ›

Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y., has often been called the most polluted lake in America. It was hammered by a one-two punch: raw and partially treated sewage from the city and its suburbs, and a century's worth of industrial dumping.

What is the most polluted lake in Georgia? ›

Lake Lanier is considered the dirtiest Lake in Georgia.

The lake does have some clean sides but overall it's very polluted. In addition, Lake Lanier was recently named one of the worst offenders for water pollution in the Georgia Water Coalition's annual “Dirty Dozen” report.

How high is Grand Lake right now? ›

Current Readings

Pool elevation is 743.99 feet on 26JUL2022 15:00 hours.

How big is Grand Lake Oklahoma? ›

What is the water temperature in Oklahoma? ›

Elevation is Normal (stable), water temperature 85°F and stained.

What tribe owns Grand Lake Casino? ›

GRAND LAKE CASINO - Seneca-Cayuga Nation.

Who bought Honey Creek Resort? ›

GRDA buys Grand Lake's Honey Creek resort, plans to increase public access to water. The Grand Lake Development Authority recently bought the Honey Creek Resort in Grove for $1.225 million. The property has cabins, a fishing pier, boat rentals, a swimming dock and a gravel beach.

How Old Is Grand Lake Lodge? ›

The Rustic style Grand Lake Lodge was originally built between 1919 to 1926 to service organized tours to Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated on approximately 50 acres, there are some 103 buildings in the lodge complex, including the main lodge, 40 guest cabins, 47 employee cabins, and several outbuildings.

Are Oklahoma lakes safe to swim in? ›

Safety tips for Oklahoma lakes

Swim in safe or designated swimming areas only. Many lakes have designated swimming areas away from heavy boat traffic areas. Avoid swallowing lake water and don't open your eyes underwater. Use earplugs, goggles and nose plugs to keep water from getting where it shouldn't.

Is there blue-green algae in Oklahoma? ›

Cyanobacteria are naturally found in our freshwater systems all over Oklahoma. Also refereed to as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria is commonly mistaken for green algae due to it's similar appearance and impositions.

Why are Oklahoma lakes Brown? ›

Brown water lakes

Typically, brown lakes are surrounded by forests or wetlands. Dense forests provide dark organic material that dissolves in lake water like a teabag. This dissolved organic material stains the water brown and shades the underwater world.

Where is the clearest water in Oklahoma? ›

Arcadia Lake Has The Bluest, Clearest Water In Oklahoma.

How much does it cost to go to Little Sahara? ›

The cost is $10 a day for all drivers and passengers to get on the sand. Passengers under 10 years old are free. The park also offers an annual family pass for frequent visitors. Cost for the pass is $200 for the first and $125 for each additional family member in the same household.

How much does it cost to ride at Little Sahara? ›

The park is open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. Cost for entrance is $10 per day for drivers and passengers.

Is Grand Lake O the Cherokees man-made? ›

Grand Lake of the Cherokees is a man-made lake. Construction began in 1938 when the Oklahoma Highway and Transportation Department built the Grand River Dam to create jobs during an economic downturn of the time.

What is the water temperature of Grand Lake Oklahoma? ›

Grand Lake O' the Cherokees's current water temperature is 81°F.

How is the fishing in Grand Lake OK? ›

If you have a boat, the best places to begin largemouth bass fishing are in the creeks like Drowning Creek on the southwest side and Duck Creek on the western side. However, bass are caught all over the lake. I recommend using crankbaits along the riprap at the bridges that cross the lake and jigs for fishing docks.

How big is Grand Lake of the Cherokees? ›

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