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Tenkiller Ferry Lake
Sequoyah & Cherokee

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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.

Additional Info

Corps Lake Web Site

Corps Project Web Site

Map of Public Hunting Areas

Tenkiller Bay State Park

Cherokee Landing State Park

Tenkiller's Loons
by Jim Arternurn

There are not many places where you can see hundreds of Common Loons in a day or even up to a hundred from one spot on the lake. In addition there are usually multiple Pacific and Red-throated around and even the occasional Yellow-billed Loon. In the spring I have been able to enjoy the sight of many breeding plumaged Common Loons, one to two breeding plumaged Pacific and Red-throated Loons or even 500 breeding plumaged Horned Grebes all in one small area. On most days you can listen to the loons bark at each other and on a really warm day you can hear them call. I have even had the privilege of hearing the occasional Pacific and Red-throated call. Another treat is to watch the loons flying over the lake. It is not unusual to see 4-5 loons in the air at one time. It is even more fun to watch the land as they bounce their way to a stop. Also, if you spend much time looking at the loons you will notice that there is so much variation in their plumage that very few actually look like the pictures in the field guides.


Drive south from Tahlequah on SH 82 for 16 miles to the Elk Creek bridge Cross the bridge and turn right. Drive west for 2 miles into the Carlisle Cove area. In the cove there are oak and hickory wooded hills with thick undergrowth and a rugged Corps of Engineers controlled shoreline The sparsely settled area permits good roadside birding. The cove is 85 miles from Tulsa.

Special features of the area include Bald Eagles in winter; Black Vultures in summer; all woodpeckers the year round except the Red-cockaded Woodpecker; good warblers during spring migration; occasional Roadrunners; and good Eastern Bluebird populations. This area provides good birding all year. Expect surprises along with the old reliables.

There is an interesting nature trail through pine woods at Standing Rock Landing. Follow signs and see the map for location.


From Carlisle Cove continue south on SH 82 and SH 100. From Greenleaf Lake State Park follow SH 10 south to Gore. Directly from Tulsa to the Dam Site, use the Muskogee Turnpike, exit at US 64 and drive across to Gore. The dam is located on the Illinois River 5 miles north of Gore.

Just as SH 100 leaves the river valley to make the steep ascent to the top of the dam, a blacktop road leads off to the right for three-fourths mile to a riverside parking area at the base of the dam. This stretch of road with its dry, rocky bluff topped with scraggly junipers on the one side and the clear-flowing Illinois on the other gives one the impression of being much farther west. Hearing the song of the Rock Wren as it perches atop the bluff strengthens the illusion still further. Here, at possibly their easternmost breeding site, the Rock Wrens have been seen throughout the year though with less certainty during the winter. Although the Rufous-crowned Sparrow has been seen and heard here on the bluff regularly in the spring, it never appears to remain into the breeding season. This could bear further investigation.

The Corps of Engineers has developed the Overlook Nature Trail in the vicinity of the dam site.


A prime location in winter for viewing waterfowl, particularly loons. It is possible to find all four loon species on Lake Tenkiller - Red-throated, Pacific, Yellow-billed and Common.



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




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