Oklahoma City offers lake lovers lots of options, activities


Oklahoma City may be several hours away from some of the largest lakes in the state, but that does not mean it is lacking in excellent venues from which to drop a fishing line or launch a boat or personal watercraft.

As one of the largest metros in the U.S. in terms of square mileage, Oklahoma City is blessed to have several man-made lakes within its borders large enough to provide activities for the most ardent outdoor or water enthusiasts. Two of those lakes – Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser – are situated in the northwest and west sides of Oklahoma City, respectively. Both bodies of water provide drinking water to Oklahoma City residents, as does another busy lake on the southeast side of OKC, Lake Stanley Draper, the largest of the three lakes, named for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s long-time director.

Although swimming is not permitted in any of the city’s lakes since they are sources of drinking water for the metro, people can still participate in other activities on the water. At Lake Hefner, sailboats and personal watercraft are allowed on the lake. In fact, Hefner is an extremely popular lake for sailing, as well as kiteboarding. There are two marinas on the lake, one a public marina on the southwest side of the lake; the other, a private marina of the Oklahoma City Boat Club that is located on the east side. If you are an angler looking for a good fishing spot, you will find Lake Hefner an excellent place to land one of many types of fish species living in its waters.

Perhaps the most popular aspect of Lake Hefner is not what it offers on its waters but rather on its shores. Almost 10 miles of bike trails encircle the lake, providing a great place for cyclists, runners and walkers to enjoy the outdoors and keep in shape. Several successful, local restaurants that have served as gathering spots for friends and families for years are located along the East Wharf area. Not too far from these eateries is Lake Hefner’s iconic New England-style lighthouse, a favorite place for photos, especially at sunset.

Although boating is allowed on Lake Overholser, the most popular activity on the 1,500-acre lake just might be fishing. A covered and lighted fishing dock on the southwest side of the lake provides a great venue for fishermen, day or night. Nature lovers can check out some of the animal species that inhabit the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, a retreat on the north side of Lake Overholser that is surrounded by trees, marshes and hiking trails. Visitors to the refuge can also explore its beauty and wildlife by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle boat. In addition, kids can enjoy the Route 66 Playground, a 148-acre park that pays homage to historic Route 66, part of which runs along the north side of the lake. A skateboard park is also nearby.

Swimming is prohibited at Lake Stanley Draper but waterskiing is allowed. Boats and jet skis are welcome on the lake, which covers 2,900 acres and features 34 miles of shoreline. Visitors to Lake Stanley Draper, which is located just minutes from I-35 and I-240, have other amenities available to them around the lake area, including camping, picnicking, fishing, dirt bike riding, jogging, biking and horseback riding. There is also a recreational area on the east side of the lake with its own sand volleyball court and a 14-mile paved trail around the entire lake that was completed in 2018 as part of MAPS 3 that is used primarily for hiking, walking, running and nature trips. Lake Stanley Draper Marina is located on the northwest side of the lake.

In addition to the Hefner, Overholser and Stanley Draper lakes, two other lakes in the region also receive many visitors throughout the year: Arcadia Lake, located east of Edmond, and Lake Thunderbird, east of Norman. Arcadia Lake opened in 1987 and provides visitors with an assortment of lake activities and recreational opportunities, such as fishing, waterskiing, camping, boating, picnicking, hiking, biking, swimming and disc golf. There are also equestrian trails, playground areas for kids and a nature center. Lake Thunderbird is part of Lake Thunderbird State Park and offers a variety of activities throughout the year. It features two marinas and an extensive RV and tent camping areas, including nearby showers and restrooms.