Exploring Lake Texoma
Story by Sarah Naron
Temperatures are steadily climbing, Mother Nature’s wonders are in full bloom, and school is almost out. Of course, all of this comes together to signify one very important time of year – summertime! As always, families and groups of friends everywhere are making plans for recreation and relaxation, something that is undoubtedly needed more than ever as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the world on its toes. For many individuals who are itching to hit the road for some new sights, the ability to maintain social distancing is an important factor when choosing a vacation spot. As a result, many are searching for locations which provide plenty of outdoor activities…and what better place to start looking than among the many lakes sprinkled across the Lone Star State?
Among these waterways is Lake Texoma, which occupies a portion of the Red River located between the states of Texas and Oklahoma. With a span of more than 89,000 acres, the lake makes its way through the Texas counties of Grayson and Cooke and the Oklahoma counties of Marshall, Johnson, Bryan, and Love. Construction on the lake – which is the property of the United States government – commenced in 1939 and cost a total of $54 million. An informal opening of the lake was observed in 1944.
A crucial element of this lake is the Denison Dam – located five miles northwest of the city of Denison, Texas – which was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers after authorization for the project was provided by the Flood Control Act of 1938. Measuring 165 feet high and 15,350 in length, the dam serves a number of purposes, including conservation, flood management, power generation, and recreation. Housed within the dam are two 35,000 kilowatt power units; the installation of five more units could be accommodated should the need arise.
The capacity of Lake Texoma is just over 4.5 million acre-feet, and its total discharge capacity is 750,000 cubic feet per second. A total of 1,250 miles of shoreline and 1,127,000 acres of land are encompassed and protected by the lake and the dam.
Today, the lake is home to many opportunities for outdoor fun sure to delight both the young and the young at heart, including boating, camping, dining, equestrian trails, fishing, golfing, hiking trails, and hunting. Those who aren’t as into nature are sure to find relaxation by indulging in one of the many dining or shopping venues located in close proximity to the lake. For those looking for a place to rest their heads at the end of a fun-filled day at Lake Texoma, there is a wide range of nearby accommodations ranging from primitive campgrounds to cabins to luxury resorts.
The lake, which has been dubbed “A Lake for All Seasons” by its governing organization, also provides visitors with the chance to get up close and personal with remnants of US history from the Civil War era. Located on the lake’s north shore in northwester Bryan County, OK is Fort Washita, a frontier military post which has undergone a partial restoration. The site on which the fort was erected was chosen and named by General Zachary Taylor, who was the first to take on the role of post commander in 1843 and went on to be elected president of the United States. US troops occupied the fort from the time of its construction until it was abandoned to members of the Confederacy in May of 1861. Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Fort Washita ceased to be utilized as a mility establishment; however, its post office remained in operation until 1880. Today, the site is under the care of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The lake’s Oklahoma side also holds many reminders of the Chickasaw Nation that once inhabited the area; these structures include the final capitol of the Chickasaw Nation, the Chickasaw Council House Museum, and what remains of the Chickasaw Male Academy, all of which are located in Tishomingo, OK. Located in the nearby Emet, OK is the Chickasaw White House, which was once the residence of Chickasaw Governor Douglas Hancock Johnston
History is also preserved on the Texas side of the lake in a place known as the Old Colbert’s Crossing, located not far below the Denison Dam. The Chisholm and Shawnee cattle trails intersected here, and the site was later home to a ferry, which was eventually replaced by a toll bridge. Those who venture here are provided with the unique experience of literally following in the footsteps of Indians, soldiers, and other characters of eras long since past.
Denison also boasts the honor of being the birthplace of Dwight. D. Eisenhower, who was born on Oct. 14, 1890 and ended up becoming one of the presidents of the United States. The white two-story home in which he was born still stands near a railroad track and has undergone restoration at the hands of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In addition to its shores, the depths of Lake Texoma are home to historical significance all their own. In an area known as Preston Bend, there once stood the Indian Trading Post, an 1837 venture of Holland Coffee. The post has long since been lost to the lake, but it is commemorated by a granite marker located adjacent to Preston Cemetery.
Many of the visitors to Lake Texoma are drawn there by the promise of abundant fishing. The lake is home to a variety of species – including black bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, sand bass, and small mouth bass – but striped bass, which are affectionately referred to as stripers, have earned the title of “king” of the lake. Since this species was first introduced in the latter portion of the 1960s, Lake Texoma has become recognized as one of the best locations for striper fishing throughout the Southwestern United States. Sand bass – also known as white bass and “sandies” – are also a popular fish among those who visit Lake Texoma.
Catfishing enthusiasts – especially those with a particular interest in blue catfish – are also sure to enjoy Lake Texoma, which has produced many record-breaking blue cats, including one which reportedly weighed in at a whopping 118.5 pounds.
Those visiting Lake Texoma for the purpose of fishing are free to do so independently, but for those interested in a helping hand at ensuring their trip is a success, professional guides are available for hire.
For more information on Lake Texoma, activities, or lodging, please visit www.laketexomaonline.com.