History of Hulah Lake

Local History

Hulah Lake, lying in the upper reaches of the high rounded Osage Hills, was named after the nearby community of Hulah, established in 1918. The name is derived from the Osage Indian word Mush meaning "eagle'. In historic times, Osage Indian hunting parties from the north rode into this reservation of almost one and one-half million acres, which the Federal Government purchased from the Cherokee Nation at 70 cents an acre. Some of the Osages raised beef cattle and others leased their rich upland pastures to ranchmen. Beginning in 1916, rich oil discoveries in Osage lands brought large royalties to these Indians and the Osage Nation became the wealthiest Indian Tribe in North America.

In Pawhuska, the seat of Osage County, which is the largest county in the State and the capital of the Osage Nation, is the Osage National Museum.  The museum is the oldest tribally-owned museum in the United States. Here one may see exhibits of Osage crafts, costumes and arts, treaties and valuable documents.

At Bartlesville, to the southeast in Washington County, the first commercial oil well drilled in Oklahoma is a point of interest in Johnstone Park adjoining the city limits. Price Tower, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is another highlight.

South of Hulah Lake, between Pawhuska and Bartlesville, is the beautiful Osage Hills State Park, once a favorite stopping place for Indian hunting parties and outlaw gangs.

Woolaroc Ranch and Museum, 14 miles southwest of Bartlesville on SH 123, traces the development of the Southwest, through archaeological 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.

History and Development

Hulah Lake was authorized by Congress in 1936. Designed and built by the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $11,390,000, the project is one unit in the comprehensive plan of development for the Verdigris and the Arkansas River Basins. Construction began in 1946 and the project was completed in 1951.


The primary authorized project purposes for Hulah Lake are to provide flood risk management for the Caney River Valley, water supply purposes and other conservation and recreational needs to the public.

Flood risk management is provided for about 57,000 acres downstream in the Caney River Valley. Operated in conjunction with other projects, it reduces flooding in the Verdigris River and aids in water control on the Arkansas River.

In order to accomplish its authorized purposes, Hulah Lake has three kinds of storage that are separated by zones from top to bottom of the lake: flood control, conservation, and inactive storage. The top zone or "flood control storage" provides 257,000 acre-feet of storage and remains empty except during times of flood control operation. An acre-foot of water is 325,850 gallons -- enough water to cover one acre to a depth of one foot.

The middle zone or "conservation storage" provides 33,400 acre-feet of water storage for water supply, water quality and space to contain sediment. The water supply portion of the storage will yield 12.4 million gallons a day.

The bottom zone or "inactive storage" provides 1,300 acre-feet. Releases of water made through the low flow pipes, outlet works, over the spillway or a combination of all three. Releases are generally less than bankfull, however, during large flood periods they may range up to the bankfull flow of about 8,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). The release rate depends on such factors as the inflow rate, amount of water in storage, river flows downstream, and weather conditions. A warning device is sounded at the dam prior to making a change in releases.