Fishing and Hunting
Established by Executive Order in 1943 the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge covering 32,324 acres of land and water is a unit in a chain of refuges of the Continental Central Flyway extending from Canada to Mexico. The refuge provides a wildlife feeding and resting area for ducks and geese that use the central flyway each autumn and spring and is the permanent home for many waterfowl.
The Salt Plains Refuge maintains a 1,200 acre area for public hunting north of HWY 11 to Jefferson Road. All other government lands are closed to public hunting. White-tailed deer and spring turkey hunting on the refuge is only allowed via a permit with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Controlled Hunting Program in designated refuge management units. Hunters must apply directly with the state in spring. Hunting for waterfowl and upland game birds is by use of non-toxic shot only, state regulations and season dates as well as Refuge restrictions apply. Contact the Refuge Office or visit the refuge website for additional information.
Refuge waters include Great Salt Plains Reservoir (8,000 acres), Salt Fork River (two miles) and Sand Creek (two miles). Fishing season is April 1-October 15. Available species include largemouth bass, catfish, carp, crappie, sunfish and sauger. The lake is very shallow, allowing for special trotline regulations. Contact the Refuge Office or visit the refuge website for additional information.
Fishing for catfish and other species is a common activity downstream of the concrete structure of the dam. How good the fishing is, is dependent on the amount of precipitation in the area and the flow of the Salt Fork River. For information on current fishing status of the lake and the river, call the Salt Plains Park Office at (580) 626-4731.
Camping and Picnicking
Salt Plains State Park is operated and maintained by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. The park offers 95 tent, 64 RV camping sites in their five recreation areas. The recreation areas are Sandy Beach, River Road, North Spillway, South Spillway and Nathan Boone, which is popular with equestrian campers. There are also six cabins available for reservation. Picnic pavilions are available in some of the areas. Online reservations must be made for all RV and tent camping sites. For more information about the park, facility amenities and activities available in the park click here.
Due to the shallowness of the reservoir, only shallow drafting vessels are advised. The Salt Plains State Park notes canoeing, kayaking and rafting as activities.
A large portion of the reservoir is within the boundary of the National Wildlife Refuge and are restricted from access. Boats, canoes, kayaks, etc. are prohibited on refuge creeks, streams and rivers.
Boating is in accordance with Oklahoma and federal boating laws and regulations and is enforced by the Marine Enforcement Division of the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol.
The Salt Plains are formed by a basin about 40 miles square, consisting principally of alluvial sand saturated with salt water, with a surface salt incrustation formed by evaporation. With the exception of the Salt Plains themselves, the area is verdant and beautiful. Most visitors, especially those who come for the first time are impressed with the dam for a structure of this magnitude is totally unexpected in this area.
At certain places on the Salt Plains, gypsum and saline solutions in the soil are sufficiently concentrated to promote crystal growth. Collecting selenite crystals has become a fascinating activity for many visitors to the wildlife refuge. Crystal digging is allowed during the period from April 1 to October 15 each year under rules established by the wildlife refuge. Contact the Refuge Office or visit the refuge website for additional information.
Other features attracting sightseers are the large flocks of waterfowl that use the project during their migration along the Central Flyway. Over the years, the refuge has become a crossroads of North American bird life, with more than 250 species of resident and migrant birds observed in the area. It is one of the nation’s most popular wintering areas for golden and bald eagles.
The designated swimming beach for Great Salt Plains Lake is located at the Sandy Beach Recreation Area in Salt Plains State Park .
Within the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, seven trails and one auto tour are open from sunrise to sunset. Trails may be closed during hunts, prescribed fires and for required maintenance. Five trails and the Harold F. Miller Auto Tour are open all year: Eagle Roost Trail, Hoot Owl Loop, Casey Marsh Trail, Sandpiper Trail and Jet Recreation Trail. Two fishing trails: Sand Creek Fishing Trail and Cottonwood Point Fishing Trail are open seasonally during April 1 to October 15. All trails are dog and kid friendly, and Sandpiper Trail which has an observation deck and spotting scope is wheelchair friendly.
The Salt Plains State Park has an extensive trail system. Equestrian, nature watching, hiking, and bicycle trails are available in the park. An accessible trail is located within the River Road Area.