A Quick Dam (and Lake) History

Grand Lake came about because of a great idea. The area around what would be the lake has been Native American land for a long, long time. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma had the idea that they could use the Grand River to supply hydroelectric power to the Cherokee Nation. This was actually before Oklahoma was even a state.

It took a while for it to actually happen. The idea finally became reality in March of 1940 with the completion of the Pensacola Dam. Once the dam was in place, Grand Lake o’ the Cherokee (Grand Lake for short) was born. The dam itself is damn impressive. It’s over 5,000 feet long, State HWY 28 runs across it, and it’s also got a walkway. I still don’t know how they did it – it was 1940, after all! Just think of the technology they had back then versus what we have now. I wish I could go back in time and see it being built in person. I bet it was amazing to see.

The lake is also pretty impressive. For one thing, it’s large – over 40,000 acres. It also brought a lot of life and joy to the area, and towns sprouted up or expanded right along with the lake. I’m proud to say that it is not all tourist centered, either. We’ve got great fishing, sailing, and all that water recreation to get them flocking here every summer, that is true. But we don’t shut down and close up shop after Labor Day, either: we’ve got fine dining, great performing arts centers, shopping, and casinos to keep people coming to visit year-round.

One of the greatest things about the area around Grand Lake is that we are able to honor our history as well as enjoy all the best of modern life. We’ve got fancy highways but we’ve also got Route 66. There are heritage museums celebrating Native American culture and the lives of early settlers right alongside state-of-the-art casinos. Then there is the Cherokee Queen, a riverboat that takes visitors around the lake. She’s about as old as the lake itself. If you’ve never been onboard, make it a point to do so. She may have a lot of years on her but she’s incredible. Over the years, the water craft on the lake has changed. We’ve gone from mostly sailboats and smaller fishing vessels to PWC (personal water craft) and even those crazy water jet packs. To each his own, I say.

I’m proud of my home and of Grand Lake. I think we are continuing to make history here. If you are looking for a fun and active family vacation or you just need to get away for a while, Grand Lake is the perfect place to be. You might make some of your own family history here too.