Nestled in the Cookson Hills of eastern Oklahoma, foothills of the Ozark Mountains, this body of water, known as "Oklahoma's Clear Water Wonderland," is surrounded with dogwood forests, hilly terrain, and beautiful foliage from spring until fall. It also serves as part of a flyway for migratory animals, such as Canada geese, ducks, monarch butterflies, warblers, and bald eagles.
Tenkiller crossing, where the dam is located, is named for a famous Cherokee family and was a main travel route across the Illinois River in frontier times. The Tenkiller Ferry project was authorized by Congress under the Flood Control Act of 1938. Installation of power features was authorized in the River and Harbor Act of 1946, and these features were designed and built by the Tulsa District, Army Corps of Engineers, at a cost of $23,687,000. The project was started in 1947, placed in flood control operation in July 1953, and power was placed online in December 1953.
The lake is well known for water-based activities, and its reputation is well deserved. The State of Oklahoma and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineeers manage ten marinas and fourteen parks with many different facilities around the lake. There are twenty-four boat launching ramps around the lake, three floating restaurants, and many islands to explore, the most famous being “Goat Island”, which is actually inhabited with goats that can sometimes be spotted grazing at the shoreline. Scuba diving, camping, hiking, fishing, golfing, water sports, scenic nature, fishing, and hunting are all surrounded with beautiful rock bluffs and days that end with spectacular sunsets.
Camping is also popular, with 14 campgrounds operated by the Corps, the State of Oklahoma, and concessionaires. Types of camping range from primitive to full hookup and are fairly evenly spread out from one end of the lake to the other. Hiking one of the three nature trails is another outdoor activity easily accessible from the lake. The trails vary in length from 1 1/4 miles to over 2 miles. Spectacular vistas, rock formations, and many species of wildlife are just a few of the things to take in as you hike along. Almost all project lands are open to public hunting except for parks and around the dam and control structures. Principal species hunted are whitetail deer, turkey, rabbit, and squirrel.