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Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees

Catfish are jumpin’ and casino wheels turnin’ in the Sooner State

Do you like combining boating, fishing, golfing and camping? Well, the place to go for all these activities is Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in northeast Oklahoma. This beautiful, serpentine body of water boasts 46,500 surface acres and 1,300 miles of shoreline. The seemingly endless coast, fish-rich waters and fun-filled, welcoming lakeside communities make this a one-stop recreation destination.

Pensacola Dam

To get a feel for the place, you should start at the beginning: the Pensacola Dam, located in the southwest end of the long, winding lake. The first hydroelectric dam in Oklahoma, this 6,565-foot-long structure created the lake in 1940 to harness the current for the Grand (Neosho) River. The 150-foot-high dam has 51 arches and 21 spillways. Tours of the facility are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


Bring your fishing gear, because Grand Lake is an angler’s paradise. Tow your own boat to one of the launching ramps, or rent a vessel from the more than 20 marinas dotted around the lake. Drop a line in the water from the shore, or venture out into the water on a boat with a fishing guide service. Grand Lake has several helpful guide services that can show you where the big ones are biting.

Grand Lake is home to 45 fishing tournaments held here annually. Anglers haul in largemouth bass, white bass and spotted bass. You can also catch white crappies, bluegills and channel cats. Learn how to reel in Oklahoma’s most unique fish, the Spoonbill Catfish. Known for their beak-like rostrums, these bad boys can grow up 7 feet long and weigh as much as 200 pounds. Consult an expert if you plan on catching one of these monster fish.


Fishing isn’t the only watersport. From kayaks to motorboats, Grand Lake is the place to go. You can water ski, jet ski, parasail, go as fast as you can or as slow as you want. Grand Lake has the wide-open thoroughfares and the small, intimate coves ideal for quiet afternoons out on the water.

Sailboat enthusiasts love Grand Lake because of its southwest-to-northeast wind direction, blowing perpendicular to the long lake’s axis. This geometry allows these sailors to catch the prevailing wind along the length of the lake.


You brought your golf clubs, right? Grand Lake enjoys an abundance of beautiful, green links. Some are paired with marinas, some with casinos, but all are lush and lavish. Call ahead for tee times.


Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is so big that it spans four counties. Along the shoreline, you’ll find several welcoming communities filled with amenities that will keep you busy throughout your stay. In addition, there are lots of little shops to wander in and out of, ample restaurants to satisfy even the pickiest eater and some fantastic RV resorts. Pick one and call it home base, and then head out to enjoy your day, or stay in and play at the park.


If your travel plans include gaming, head on over to one of the 20 casinos that call Grand Lake home. Spend the day at the tables, play the nickel slots or relax relaxing time at one of the many restaurants that overlook the lake from these hot spots.

Monkeying Around

Monkey Island, a blissful strip of land in the widest part of Grand Lake, offers the diversity of a rural setting combined with outstanding fishing, nightlife and shopping. Monkey Island also hosts the majority of Grand Lake’s fishing and golf tournaments.

Jay, situated within the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries, is rich in Native American tradition and serves as the center of Native American activities, including the annual Gigging Tournament held in April, celebrating a Cherokee practice of catching fish with a long, pronged spear. The communities of Fairland and Wyandotte each offer their own take on what it means to be near one of the largest water resort areas in the Midwest.

Something for the Whole Family

The largest city on Grand Lake is the northern resort area of Grove. Grove sits near the southern end of 2,548-long Sailboat Bridge, which spans the north end of the lake and provides uniquely photogenic views of Grand Lake. The bridge also offers both a pedestrian walkway and bike lane. Often referenced as the “Gateway to Grand Lake,” Grove boasts a number of fine restaurants, specialty boutiques and antique stores. It’s also got plenty of outfitters and tackle shops for lake excursions.

While in town, take the kids to the Har-Ber Village Museum, located near the shore. Dedicated to pioneer life between the 1850s and 1920s, there are 25 historic log cabins situated on the grounds with interactive exhibits. Cook on a wood stove, sit at an old-time school desk and play with toys from more than a century ago. Har-Ber’s buildings have been relocated from their original homes and restored to original condition.

Grove hosts several popular events, including a bevy of music festivals, the Grand Lake Boat and Sport Show, and the Pelican Festival, which celebrates the annual fall migration of American white pelicans to Grove. Take a ride aboard The Cherokee Queen, a paddle-wheel riverboat and take advantage of the area’s full-service marinas and museums.

If you want to hang out on the lake but want someone else to do the driving, then book a tour on the Cherokee Queen Riverboat Ride, which docks in Grove. This 67-foot, twin-deck paddle-wheel boat will take you back to the time of ornate floating palaces. You can go for an afternoon sightseeing excursion, or book a romantic dinner tour.

For More Information

Visit Grand Lake



Oklahoma Tourism and

Recreation Department