Tulsa District Header Image
Home

History of Tenkiller Lake

EARLY DAY HISTORY:  More than 130 years ago, the Cherokee Indians came to this area to build a nation after their westward trek from Georgia over the Trail of Tears. Tenkiller crossing -- where the dam is located -- is named for a famous Cherokee family and was a main traveled route across the Illinois River in frontier times. Here in the western foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, the Cherokees invented a syllabary and developed an intricate government, including a system of courts of law. At Tahlequah, the Cherokees produced Oklahoma’s first newspaper in both Cherokee and English, and built a tribal government and schools. Here may be seen the historic Cherokee capital, the old tribal prison, the Cherokee Supreme Court Building, Cherokee Female Seminary built in 1889, and near the junctions of US Highway 62, State Highway 10 and State Highway 82, south of Tahlequah, is Tsa-La-Gi, an authentic replica of a Cherokee Village from the 1700s. There are many more points of interest within easy driving distance, including the Sequoyah Memorial, the historic Murrell Mansion, Dwight Mission, Fort Gibson National Cemetery, and Fort Gibson Stockade. The notable cliffs, forests and meadows along the shoreline of Lake Tenkiller are still much as they were years ago when outlaw gangs fled to the Cookson Hills for protection from the law.

HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT:  The Tenkiller Ferry project was authorized by Congress under the Flood Control Act of 1938. Installation of power features was authorized in the River and Harbor Act of 1946. It was designed and built by the Tulsa District, Corps of Engineers, at a cost of $23,687,000. The project was started in 1947, placed in flood control operation in July 1953 and power was placed on the line in December 1953.