Great Salt Plains Lake is located on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River approximately eight miles northeast of Jet, Oklahoma, and 12 miles east of Cherokee. The lake consists of 8,700 surface acres and sits in a basin bordered by salt plains on the west with red shale bluffs and sandy beaches nearer the dam. The scenic area, including the unique salt flats, offers the visitor a memorable outdoor recreational experience.
The Salt Flats are a unique geological feature. Visitors enjoy viewing the flat's 11,200 acres of salt-crusted plains or digging for the famous Salt Plains selenite crystals. Concentrated saline water combines with gypsum to promote growth of a crystal with an hourglass shaped sand inclusion. The Great Salt Plains Lake area is the only documented area in the world where they are found. Visitors from all over the world come to collect the unique crystals.
The 32,197-acre Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge borders the lake on its upper end. It provides habitat for approximately 300 species of birds and 30 species of mammals. Winter seasonal visitors include ducks, geese, crane, and bald eagles. Summer brings egrets, herons, pelicans, and endangered least terns among others. The refuge manages one primitive camping area, the popular selenite crystal digging area, a visitor center, a nature trail, auto tour route and observation tower, as well as fishing on refuge streams and portions of the lake.
Activities on the refuge are strictly controlled with many areas closed from October 15 through April 1. Please contact the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge Office at (580) 626-4794 for assistance in determining allowable activities.
Due to its shallowness, not all types of boating and fishing activities are suitable for the main body of the lake, but fishing for catfish and other species is a popular activity downstream of the concrete dam structure. Other noted activities for the area include bird watching, swimming, camping and picnicking. Fishing is allowed year round in the area near the dam. The refuge maintains a public hunting area north of State Highway 11. The Public Hunting area is ran on a first come, first served basis and also offers controlled hunts in coordination with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Salt Plains State Park manages five camping areas, which include six different cabins. There is also a community center building with kitchen facilities available for rent. The park also offers an interpretative trail, accessible to those with disabilities, a combination equestrian, hiking and mountain bike trail, boat ramps and a designated swimming area. The State Park office also sells supplies used for digging selenite crystals.
The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the dam and spillway.
For camping information, reservations or to confirm availability of facilities, call the Salt Plains State Park at (580) 626-4731.
For visitor center information or information on hunting and crystal digging, call the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge at (580) 626-4794.