Upper Illinois River
The Illinois River is Oklahoma's best known scenic river. Officially designated in the 1970s as a scenic river, the upper 70 miles of the Illinois River is cherished for its beauty. Running through the heart of the beautiful Oklahoma Ozark Hills with their ever-changing oak-hickory forest, there is breathtaking beauty year round. The upper Illinois is an easy-flowing river with splendid scenery and several stretches of mild rapids. It is an excellent fishing stream with smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, walleye, and various other species. Canoeing is one of the most popular activities on the Illinois. Floaters enjoy 70 miles of interesting and sometimes challenging water. Canoes, tubes, and boats can be rented at several locations along the river.
Lower Illinois River
Below Lake Tenkiller Dam run the cold, clear waters of the lower Illinois River, a beautiful flowing, scenic river. Fishermen have been coming to the lower Illinois since 1965 when it was established as Oklahoma's first year-round designated trout stream. Because trout are such hard fighters once they are hooked, trout fishing continues to attract more and more anglers. The state record trout, 10 pounds 6 ounces, was caught in 1966 and still stands. The Fisheries Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife stocks trout every weekend from the end of March through the 4th Of July. The rest of the year trout are stocked every other week, usually on Friday. Contingent upon access and water oxygen content, stocking takes place at 4 locations along the 7.7 mile stretch of the river.
Oklahoma's most scenic recreational lake, Tenkiller Ferry Lake was created in 1953 with the construction of Tenkiller Ferry Dam, by the U.S. Corp of Engineers. Named after a local Native American family who operated a ferry service across the Illinois River where the dam now stands, Tenkiller Lake covers 12,650 acres. Once the tallest in the nation, the dam stands 197 feet high.
The first of two state parks located on the lake, Tenkiller State Park sits atop wooded bluffs overlooking the lake and occupies 1,190 acres adjacent to the reservoir. Cherokee Landing State Park is located just north of the Highway 82 bridge and offers a large campground at the water's edge, boat ramps and swimming beaches, and a handicapped-accessible fishing dock.
- Rustic cabins and cabanas
- Swimming pool
- Boat ramps
- A nature center
- Hiking trails
- A full service marina with floating restaurant
- A scuba diving park
Tenkiller Lake has more than 130 miles of wooded shoreline, offering ten marinas and eight public campgrounds. Highway 82, on the east side of the lake, is one of Oklahoma's most scenic byways. On the west side of the lake, you'll find a 2,600 acre public hunting area.
Scuba diving at Tenkiller Lake is the best in a four state area. The clear water and varied terrain attract thousands of divers each year. From gradual slopes of twenty feet to sheer cliff drop-offs and intriguing caves, it is a diver's dream. Two dive shops are conveniently located around the lake to help you with you diving needs. Boating, fishing, swimming, skiing, and scuba diving are all a part of the fun you'll enjoy in the beautiful blue waters of Tenkiller Lake.
The lake area is ranked as one of the best in Oklahoma for bird watching. More than 250 species of birds can be seen here throughout the year. Of particular interest to the birder is the Bald Eagle, which makes its winter home in areas such as Carlisle Cove and the nearby Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. As many as 85,000 Snow Geese can be observed each fall as they return to their winter home at the refuge. Truly, Tenkiller Lake is "Oklahoma's Year-round Destination."