Red and Rowdy
Sunset over The Island restaurant at Highport Marina.
Although Lake Texoma was created in 1945 for flood control and to generate hydroelectric power along the border of Texas and Oklahoma, the timing of the project caused at least one seemingly insurmountable problem. There was no way to get from one side to the other without a boat or driving completely around the 89,000-acre reservoir. They couldn’t build a bridge because all the steel that was being produced at the time was being diverted to the World War II effort. It’s a good thing they had an ace in the hole.
With that war nearly a decade behind the country, the communities around Lake Texoma looked to the White House for help. Turns out that their УaceФ was born in nearby Denison, Texas, and just happened to be President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower. And his biggest initiative at the time was a national Interstate Highway System, something that could be helped along by a bridge across Lake Texoma.
And so began a carefully staged land rush to develop the shores around the lake, which sits about an hour’s drive north of Dallas and about 120 miles south of Oklahoma City. The result is a rugged and spectacular boating and fishing destination surrounded by rocky cliffs and forests, and a great trailerable vacation spot for Midwestern boaters, birders and wildlife photographers.
And because the famed Red River flows through the lake from the west (the Washita River joins from the north), it has cut a deep channel and added life-giving oxygen to the water, resulting in a thriving population of bass (including the notoriously tough-to-sustain striped bass) along with plentiful bluegills, catfish and crappie.
On top of the water — it’s still one of the biggest manmade lakes in the country — Texoma has become a wildly popular power boating and sailing destination, with a well-built infrastructure from full-service marinas, fishing guides and charter boats to lodging options and restaurants all around the lake. There is also a tremendous amount of history throughout the area, and the stories are carefully documented at a number of area museums, art galleries and theaters. The heritage and culture of the Chickasaw Nation is of particular interest.
Where To Stay
No matter what your budget or how many you have in your crew, there are great options all around the lake. The starting point and most central destination for most first-time visitors is the quaint town of Denison, just a few miles from the water on the south side of the lake. You will find a concentration of national chain hotels and motels in this area, along with smaller, affordable, locally owned lodging.
If you’re a fan of the bed and breakfast concept, check out the rustic charm of Pappy’s Paradise or the upscale opulence of Rancho Sereno.
For bigger groups, you may want to investigate the resort-style accommodations at local marinas such as Big Mineral Marina & Resort, Mill Creek Resort and Marina or Lighthouse Resort & Marina.
RV and tent-camping options also abound, from Paradise Cove to Sundance Camp and Army Corps of Engineers-operated sites.
Where To Dock
From the most basic temporary docks and fueling stations to full-service, extended stay wet slips, you can easily find boating facilities throughout the entire Lake Texoma area. Huge high-end operations like Highport Marina, Cedar Mills Marina & Resort and Grandpappy Point Resort & Marina offer all the amenities you could ask for including, ship stores, convenient restaurants and PWC rental operations.
What To See
If you are into birding and wildlife photography, the 12,000-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is a prime location for spotting dozens of different migratory birds, including a huge variety of geese and ducks. Other wildlife abounds as well at different times throughout the year, such as river otters, deer, bobcats, fox squirrels, wild turkeys, hawks and coyotes.
Where To Eat
There are plenty of great Уlocal legendФ restaurants and other eateries all around the lake, but some of the can’t-miss options on the Texas side are Da Happy Cajun, The Point Bar & Grill, The Jalapeno Tree, Barnacle’s Sports Bar & Pizzeri and (of course) Hot n’ Creamy Donuts.
Up on the Oklahoma side, you can’t go wrong with Rooster Creek Cabana, Catfish Platter, Enos Mall & Grill and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill inside the WinStar World Casino, featuring an big selection of the country music star’s own memorabilia.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center offers a number of different programs for families to get to know the Native American history of the area and is located near natural sights such as the Arbuckle Mountain Range and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, one of America’s oldest national parks.
There are countless museums and other attractions such as the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Park, the Sherman Jazz Museum and Frontier Town, with a replica village and historically significant artifacts from pioneers who settled the area.
You probably don’t think about Texas as being a wine-producing region, but the area around Denison is where horticulturalist Thomas Volney Munson developed more than 300 new grape varieties. His discoveries are credited with helping to save European vineyards in the late 19th Century from a serious blight. The good news is that dozens of local wineries are still operating and are open for tours and tasting.
Guide To Fishing
Due to the enormous size and unique deep-channel topography of Lake Texoma, there’s something to be said for hiring a local guide for a day or two, so you can brush up on premium fishing holes and seasonal baits.
If you’re interested in combining a trip to the lake with a fishing tournament, there are dozens of options all throughout the year for the many different species you will find. One thing to remember is that you will need a special Lake Texoma fishing license — Oklahoma and Texas state licenses are not reciprocal.
Lake Texoma Resources
Activities - http://www.texomaconnect.com/Things_To_Do_Lake_Texoma_.html
Fishing guides - www.texomaconnect.com/Fishing_Guides_Lake_Texoma.html
Marinas - www.laketexoma.com/marinas
Resorts - http://www.texomaconnect.com/Resorts_Lake_Texoma.html
Restaurants - http://www.texomaconnect.com/Restaurants_Texoma_Area.html
RV and tent-camping - www.laketexoma.com/camping-rv-parks
Wineries - http://www.texomaconnect.com/Vineyards_Texoma_Area.html