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Spavinaw Lakes Area
Mayes & Delaware

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From the 1986 edition of A Guide to Birding in Oklahoma published by the Tulsa Audubon Society. This account was partially reviewed and updated in 2007.

Spavinaw State Park Web Site

The Spavinaw Lake area has for many years been a choice spot to find eastern warblers in spring migration. On a good day in early May it is possible to find 25 or more species. From Tulsa take SH 66 to Claremore following SH 20 through Pryor and Salina to Spavinaw. Visit the abandoned fish hatchery at the north end of Spavinaw where a variety of herons, including American and Least bitterns, Sora and Virginia Rails, have been found. In very early spring Sedge Wrens are a possibility. Both the Yellow-throated and the Pine Warbler have been observed in the tall pines west of SH 20. The Spavinaw Hills State Park south of town and east of SH 20 includes a part of Spavinaw Creek and a large area of open upland oak-hickory woods.

One prime warbler spot is the wooded bottomland south of Chloeta. After crossing Spavinaw Creek on a low-water bridge, follow a narrow, unpaved road which leads through the woods, mostly along the base of a steep, wooded slope, perhaps two or three hundred yards south of and parallel to the creek. The woods on the floodplain in between consist primarily of tall maples, ash, sweet gum, willow and sycamore. This woodland is noted for its high concentration of warblers during the breeding season.

In years past Cerulean Warblers and Northern Parulas were abundant in the uppermost canopy, thus presenting an opportunity for the birder to compare and learn their confusingly similar songs. Both are early migrants, the Parula remaining to nest. In the lower trees, especially those with tangles of vines, look for American Redstarts during migra­tion. Listen for the song of Kentucky Warblers, common nesters in thickets of young trees near water. During spring and summer one is seldom out of earshot of the Louisiana Waterthrush. These marvelous songsters nest regularly along the clear rocky streams, often under a mass of exposed roots on the creek bank. Tall sycamores are "home" to Yellow-throated Warblers. Prothonotaries nest in natural cavities or in old woodpecker holes over or near the water.

Return to the graveled road south of Chloeta. J. L. Norman once wrote of breeding grounds for the Blue-winged Warbler in abandoned fields near this area, "grown up in broom sedge, blackberries, and clumps of small persimmons". Nesting here, also, were the Prairie Warbler, Yel­low-breasted Chat and the Common Yellow-throat. Although the Blue-winged is now considered a rare migrant, similar old fields should be checked. Continue east toward the Upper Spavinaw (Lake Eucha) Dam area which includes lake shore and a picnic area above the dam and the Spavinaw Hills Game Management Area south of the dam. South of the village of New Eucha are old fields, thickets, a picnic grove, a cemetery, and varied lake shore.

Upper Spavinaw (Lake Eucha) and Spavinaw Creek, Delaware County

Upper Spavinaw Lake lies 5 miles south of Jay on US 59-SH 10, with areas open to the public on both sides of Lake Eucha and Spavinaw Creek. Park at the Lake Eucha Headquarters south of the causeway and scan the lake shore, the bridge, and the landscape. The low trees around the boat harbor provide one of the best habitats for rare warblers in late April and early May. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers nest near the headquarters building. Barn and Cliff swallows nest on the supports of the bridge and swarm in late summer.

Across US 59, at the base of the wooded bluff south of the motel, is a narrow woods road leading into the Lake Eucha Park and Campground. Drive about 0.2 mile; turn left through the gate which may be locked in winter (park and walk in). Follow the road eastward along the Lake Eucha shore to the fence at the end of the campground. Walk the lake shore and open parklike woods. To follow the woodland nature trail, skirt fenced sewage lagoons to the base of the bluff. An old logging road leads east (left) about one third mile to the bed of a large ravine. Return on the trail until it forks; take the right fork back to the fence and campground.

In spring, fall, and winter waterfowl may be numerous near the upper end of Lake Eucha. Ospreys and Bald Eagles fish in this section. On the wooded slope above the lowlands or even in the campgrounds Red-shouldered Hawks may nest in late April through early July. Woodpeckers are common including the Pileated. The Northern Parula nests in the tree tops along the trails. Look for White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-breasted Chat in scrubby woods near the lake shore. Kentucky Warblers nest in the undergrowth beneath the tall trees.

On the north side of the lake, the City of Tulsa Water Department main­tains several miles of open lands rich in birdlife. West of US 59 is an extensive campground affording glimpses of the lake, wooded hillsides, and a beautiful path up a picturesque hollow, the North Shore Nature Trail. East of the highway from a graveled road immediately east of the causeway stretch meadows and groves and dense fingers of shrubbery for several miles at the head of the lake and up Spavinaw Creek road to the Flash Flood sign. Brush Creek Bay, the iron bridge area, shale cliffs and numerous fishermen's trails across the flood plain to the bluff afford an exciting variety of birdlife.

Watch for nesting Loggerhead Shrikes when driving through the open stands of Bois d'arc (hedge apple) trees on the way to the creek. Rough-winged Swallows nest in the cut banks along the stream. Nesting warblers are common. In season Wood Ducks will be found in the backwater sloughs. Pileated and Red-headed woodpeckers hollow out nesting cavities in the large sycamores and elms. Eastern Bluebirds nest in hollow limbs in more open habitat. In winter Field, Fox, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, White-throated, White-crowned, and occasionally Harris's sparrows flush from the stumps and wild rose bushes.

On the old highway adjoining the city of Tulsa open lands nestles the Little Lewis Whirlwind Nature School and Sanctuary. Bird study classes and group visitations are available by arrangement. (F. M. Baumgartner, Route 2, Jay, OK 74346, phone (918) 253-8805.) In the spring among the tall pines in the parklike pastures are nesting Yellow-throated and Pine warblers. Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Indigo Bunting, nest in the brushy ravines. If your visit starts at dawn or continues into dusk, the chorus of Chuck-will's-widows and Whip-poor-wills will be heard. Hundreds of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are banded annually in the yard.

From the school grounds, oak-hickory slopes plunge into the forested Brush Creek floodplain to the east and the rugged Little Lewis Hollow to the west, with abrupt changes of habitat and associated birdlife. The Brush Creek bottomland is the summer home for several pairs of Yel­low-crowned Night-Herons, Wood Ducks, Pileated Woodpeckers, and a pair or two of Red-shouldered Hawks. Six species of warblers, including several pairs of Northern Parula, Prothonotary, and Louisiana Waterthrush, nest in the woods near the stream.


Click here for PDF version of this map with recreation information 

Click here for PDF version of this map with recreation information 


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Copyright © 2013 Tulsa Audubon Society
Last modified: October 15, 2018




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