History of Copan Lake

History & Development

Copan Dam and Lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962 for the purposes of flood control, water supply, water quality control, recreation, and fish and wildlife enhancement. The dam is located on the Little Caney River in Washington County, Oklahoma. The lake extends from the town of Copan in Oklahoma north to the town of Caney in Kansas. Construction of the project began in November 1972 and was completed on April 1, 1983, when the gates were closed.

Local History

Copan Lake, located nine miles north of Bartlesville, is named after the town of Copan, which lies not far from the lake's southeast shoreline. In its beginning, the town underwent a couple of name changes, first Lawton then Weldon, before finally settling on the name Copan. The name Copan was originally given to the depot by the railroad, after her namesake in Honduras. Starting in about 1905, Copan became a boom town with the discovery of oil and natural gas. Bartlesville, to the south, offers a wide selection of shops as well as sites to interest the sightseer. A few of those are Johnstone Park where the first commercial oil well was drilled, The Price Tower built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Frank Phillips Mansion. Woolaroc Ranch and Museum, 14 miles southwest of Bartlesville on SH123, traces the development of the southwest through archeological specimens and artifacts. There are buffalo, deer, and other wildlife on the 4,000-acre ranch. The Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma, is another tourist attraction and exhibits a personal collection, clothing, saddles, trophies, pictures, and records of the late, famous cowboy star.


Copan Lake is part of a comprehensive plan for flood control and water conservation in the Caney River and Bird Creek Basins. It is operated in conjunction with other lakes in the Verdigris and Arkansas systems. Copan Lake provides flood protection for about 3,500 acres immediately below the dam and an additional 49,000 acres throughout the Caney River Valley downstream to Bartlesville.