• Surface Area: 12,900 Acres
Tenkiller Ferry Lake, or more simply, "Lake Tenkiller," is a reservoir in eastern Oklahoma formed by the damming of the Illinois River. The earth-fill dam was constructed between 1947 and 1952 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for purposes of flood control, hydroelectric power generation. water supply and recreation. It went into full operation in 1953. The lake and dam were named for the Tenkiller family, prominent Cherokees who owned the land and ferry that were bought for the project.
The lake covers 12,900 acres and has a shoreline of over 130 miles in the Cookson Hills of the Ozark Mountains of Cherokee and Sequoyah counties, about seven miles northeast of the town of Gore and 10 miles from the intersection of I-40 and the Muskogee Turnpike. The distance from major cities include: 150 miles east of Oklahoma City, 50 miles west of Fort Smith, Arkansas, 75 miles southeast of Tulsa and 30 mile from Muskogee. One of the townships bordering this lake is Paradise Hill, at the far southwestern edge of the lake. It is known for its violent drop-offs, some going from a grown man's waist level to over his head. This is the cause of many deaths in the lake.
Originally, the amount of water delivered by the project was considered incidental, although the quality of water was much higher than that of the Arkansas River (the closest alternative source). Much of this water was expected to be used by the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Fuel Plant. That plant closed years ago. The cities of Muskogee and Sallisaw are now major consumers.
Attractions near the lake include scuba diving, camping, hiking, fishing, golfing, water sports, scenic nature, fishing, and hunting. In addition there are eight miles of trout fishing along the Illinois River. There are also ten marinas, fourteen parks, 24 boat launching ramps, three floating restaurants, and many islands including Goat Island which is famous for the goats that inhabit it. Scuba divers can even see the ruins of old communities that were flooded by the lake, such as the original town of Cookson.
Other than the goats, many other animals inhabit the area including Canada geese, ducks, monarch butterflies, warblers and bald eagles.