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 Great Salt Plains Refuge maintains a 1,200 acre area for public hunting of migratory and upland game birds. Contact the Refuge Office for specific restrictive regulations. Deer hunting on the refuge is by permit drawing only. All other hunting is prohibited, and the remainder of all other government lands is closed to hunting. It should be noted that nearby land owners conduct a thriving enterprise by leasing blind sites just off the government reservation.
For many years, Great Salt Plains Lake has been known as an excellent place to fish for channel catfish and other species. Recently, Mother Nature has changed that. The extremely hot weather and the droughts of 2011 and 2012 have all but ended fishing as a recommended activity for Great Salt Plains. Large fish kills in the lake during these years have at least temporarily put a halt to restocking. The weather and other factors will help determine if Great Salt Plains will once again be a premier fishing attraction for northern Oklahoma.
Fishing for catfish and other species is still a common activity downstream of the concrete structure of the dam. How good the fishing is again has a lot to do with 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 Great Salt Plains Park Office at (580) 626-4731.
Camping and Picnicking
Six park areas have been provided at Great Salt Plains Lake for camping and picnicking enjoyment. Five of the areas – the South Area, Salt River Road, Sandy Beach, the North Spillway and the South Spillway - are operated and maintained by the Oklahoma Division of State Parks, Department of Tourism and Recreation. The Jet Recreation Area is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Call the Great Salt Plains Refuge at (580)626-4794 for current camping information and restrictions.
Boating on the lake is in accordance with Oklahoma and federal boating law and regulations. The following restrictions are made necessary by the operation of the wildlife refuge.
1. Boating is permitted year round, east of a north-south extension of State Highway 38.
2. Boating is permitted April 1 – October 15 south and east of the buoy line.
Boating regulations are enforced by the Waterways Division of the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol.
The Great 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. A folder on selenite crystals is also available at the refuge office.
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 which is operated by Oklahoma State Parks. Call the Park Office at (580) 626-4731 for more information.
The 1.5-mile Eagle Roost Nature Trail, operated by the Great Salt Plains Refuge, offers a wide range of habitat and shelters a varied assortment of wildlife. It is an unusual treat for hikers. Beaver and white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, eagles, egrets, herons and most of the species of birds which have been observed on the refuge can be seen at one time or another along this trail. The entrance to this trail is near the Refuge Office, where a descriptive folder on the trail and a bird list are available.
Sandpiper Trail provides access to view shorebirds and the salt flats. This self-guided , 1/4-mile trail is accessible to the physically challenged. It has interpretive signs and an observation platform with spotting scope.
Byron Watchable Wildlife Area includes a self-guided, 1/2-mile trail with interpretive signs through three distinct habitats with a mixed grass prairie. A diversity of songbirds, waterfowl, prairie grass and wildflowers may be observed.
The Harold F. Miller Auto Tour Route is a 2.5-mile driving trail which meanders by refuge ponds and farm fields where deer and waterfowl abound. The habitat and wildlife change throughout the year, giving repeat visitors something different to enjoy each visit. The short .2-mile walk to Casey Marsh Tower offers the visitor an outstanding area for seeing ducks, geese and eagles during the late fall and winter.
The George Sibley Trail consists of 7 miles of intermediate to advanced level hiking, biking and equestrian riding. This multi-use hiking trail has an equestrian staging area complete with picket posts, as well as, several convenient comfort stations. Guests traversing this area will enjoy beautiful views of the lake from the North Spillway Area.