The Lakes of Stillwater, Oklahoma

A Public Service Page

Walt Cross

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Out of the 1930s "dustbowl" that enveloped most of Oklahoma, grew a sense of the value of water. Since that time hundreds of manmade lakes have proliferated in the Boomer state. The area around Stillwater is no exception, and the city has no less than four municipal lakes. They are described below. A survey of Stillwater residents in May of 1996 by the Stillwater News-Press showed Boomer Lake taking 1st place for "Best place for free fun", "Best place to picnic" and "Best place to jog". Lake McMurtry took the "Best place to fish" gold medal and was picked the second best place to camp. Congratulations Stillwater Park and Recreation!

The lakes of Stillwater are managed by Stillwater Parks and Recreation. The director is Mary Nolan. The P&R office is located at 315 E. 9th, (405) 747-8070, Lake McMurtry (405) 747-8085. In my opinion P&R does an excellent job with the lakes, providing well maintained aquatic recreation areas for the people of Stillwater and North Central Oklahoma. I have leaned heavily upon their brochures for official information on the lakes.

  • Boomer Lake
  • Lake McMurtry
  • Sanborn Lake
  • Payne Memorial
  • City Permits
  • Field Notes
  • About the author

    Captain David L. Payne

    Father of Oklahoma

    The memorial to the "Father of Oklahoma", Captain David L. Payne, was dedicated on April the 20th of 1996. Payne was a captain in the Civil War and led several groups of settlers from Kansas into the "unclaimed lands" that eventually became the state of Oklahoma. The settlement he founded was called "Stillwater", after the creek that ran nearby. When you see a municipal vehicle with the motto: "Stillwater, where Oklahoma began", it is referring to the settlement that Payne founded. On more than one occasion "Buffalo Soldiers" from their fort near present day Guthrie, drove the settlers from this area. Payne died in Kansas whil putting together yet another attempt to settle the Stillwater area with his "Boomers". For more than a century Payne's gravesite has been in the Jayhawk state of Kansas. Now he has come home to the county named for him and the park that reminds us all of the early Boomers that settled present day Stillwater.

    News Update

    The city's bond issue will come up for a vote in February 1999. Part of the issue is to build a recreation center on the east side of Boomer Lake. Some residents are concerned the impact such a center will have on the lake's environment and the flow of traffic on Husband street. A nature center is also planned, although a site being considered for the nature center is the Isaac Walton League building at Lake Sanborn. In my opinion a nature center on Boomer Lake is a better idea.

    Two environmental firms from Norman, Oklahoma and Witchita Kansas were on site this morning (12 August 1998)to install yet another "seepage well" on the lake's East shore adjacent to Moore Business Forms. I approached the crew and asked them who had contracted them and for what reason. They told me Moore had hired them to put in an additional well to stop seepage of chemicals into the lake. Moore installed at least one well last spring to stop the flow of toxins into the lake. Recently the company announced they are closing the Stillwater plant after 30 years of operation. I think it would behoove city officials to insure they leave the Stillwater site in an environmentally clean condition. Once the corporation leaves, it would probably take a law suit to get them to come back and clean up. In fact the whole idea of having an industrial park beside a major recreational area needs to be looked at. The time for the city to be checking on them is now!

    Boomer Lake is one of my favorite lakes in the Stillwater area. During the eight years I spent as the active army component of the local reserve unit, I ran around this small urban lake what seemed like hundreds of times as we maintained our military readiness and personal conditioning. Along about 1988 the lake was drained for major repairs of the dam and construction of a new roadway and bridge over the lake. After what seemed forever but was actually five years, the lake was brought back on line and it was estimated it would be eighteen to twenty four months before the basin refilled. Mother nature had other ideas, and the lake filled in just thirty days of heavy rains. Later in the spring the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife stocked the newly resurrected lake with 250,000 finglings that included largemouth bass, channel cat, bluegill perch, and saugeye.

    Boomer Lake Facilities

    Boomer Lake is formed by the impoundment of Stillwater Creek which runs into the lake proper from the north end. The body of the lake runs north and south, forming two primary recreational "lakesides" on the east and west. The two sides of the lake are as different as night and day in the facilities available and the demographics of the patrons that utilize the different sides. The West Side seems to be frequented more by the younger set, espcially high school and college students although families are often seen there with the small children utilizing the lion's kids park. There are many facilities on the west side to include picknick shelters, restrooms, cookout grills, fishing fingers into the lake, a frisbee golf course complete with water traps, and a large wooden deck that extends out over the water. In addition a boat ramp complete with dock is located on the southern end of the west side. Fishing permits as well as a current state fishing license are required. Permits for both fishing and boating may be obtained at the information kiosk next to the boat ramp. The East Side of the lake is dominated by a residential area and has less "recreational sports" facilities. The patrons of this side tend to be more mature and sedate in their recreation. I have observed modelers with both radio controlled sail and powered boats. A large open area suitable for kite flying and game sports such as football and soccer dominates the south end of the east side. Many golfers use this area for practice as well. There are two excellent shelters with cooking grills that were constructed or at least upgraded over this past winter (95-96). The city's Department of Parks and Recreation have done an exceptionally good job in selecting the company to build these shelters, accepting only top quality. I, for one, intend to utilize them this season. Restrooms are also available on this side as well as fishing fingers pushing out into the lake. There are two parking areas that will hold a moderate amount of vehicles.

    Viewable Wildlife

    There is a surprising amount of wildlife that make their home in this urban lake. Beaver are seen in the early morning hours as they tow freshly gnawed tree limbs to their dens. Early walkers are sometimes startled by the warning slap of the beaver's tail. Canada geese line the shores of the lake in spring, summer and fall and are often approachable for feeding them such items as bread, corn, and etc. Various species of duck may be seen in the spring and fall as the migrate to and from their nesting sites in Canada. Sometimes a few mallards will remain year around and raise a clutch of ducklings at Boomer Lake. Many other waterfowl such as pelicans, seagulls, blue herons, and others can be seen on the lake waters. Song birds of every description including the scissor tail flycatcher (our state bird) abound around the lake. Smaller creatures such as Blanchard's cricket frog and muskrats can been seen by the unobtrusive viewer.


    Lake McMurtry Facilities

    For camping this lake offers a total of 20 improved campsites, ten in each recreation area. The east recreation campground has ten sites with electricity, water, picnic tables and barbecue grills. A skylighted restroom with flush toilets and dump station is located nearby. The west recreation campground has six sites with electricity and water in one loop and four sites with water on another loop. A flush toilet restroom is located between these two campgrounds. Also on the west side is the RV dump station. Camping reservations are taken between April 1st and October 31st for individual campers. Groups may reserve any time of the year. Phone Lake McMurtry at (405) 747-8085 to make reservations. This is the only municipal lake that offers camping. Boating at any of the lakes requires a state and city boating permit. This applies to wind surfers as well. Jet skis, water bikes, and water skiing are not permitted on any of the City lakes. Boaters must have coast guard approved life jackets for each passenger in the vessel. The maximum speed for a motor boat is 25 mph. The west boat ramp provides access to the south coves and dam. The east ramp provides access to the island, north coves, and upper creek. The lake has many fingers and coves to explore with a small boat or canoe. Fishing and boating is prohibited in the duck blind area on hunting days. These are Wed., Thur., Sat., and Sunday during duck hunting season. Lake McMurtry has one of the few overnight hiking trails in the state, as well as day hikes along the shore or in the wooded areas. A hiking map of the area can be picked up at the Bait Shop on the west side of the lake. Fishing at any of the City lakes requires a valid state license and a City permit. Those over age 65 or aged 16 and younger, are not required to possess a City permit. Fishermen are limited to a maximum of two fishing poles. Trot lines, jug lines, netting, or other similar forms of fishing are not allowed. Largemouth bass, sand bass, channel cat, and crappie are the dominant fish species in the lake. The west recreation area has an indoor fishing dock for those cool and windy days.

    Sanborn Lake

    Sanborn lake reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting, one that shows the young boy in a floppy straw hat and the cane pole. Its a sleepy little lake, more properly referred to perhaps as a pond. Boats with electric motors or no motor at all are allowed. There are excellent grass lined banks for kids to fish from as well as a hiking trail that skirts the banks of the pond. The only comparable place I can think of for teaching kids to fish is the small pond east of the lake store at Lake Carl Blackwell. Sanborn is a very pleasent lake to visit. Sanborn is located 1/2 mile west of Hwy 177 and airport road junction. Turn south just west of the National Guard Armory on the dirt road.

    City Permits
    City permits may be purchased at Lake McMurtry and at the Stillwater Parks and Recreation office. To purchase a City fishing or boating permit, you must show your state fishing license or state boat registration. Annual permits may be purchased at any time and expire one year from the date purchased. Persons over age 65 or under age 16 are not required to obtain a City fishing permit. However, to visit Lake McMurtry they are required to purchase a day use permit. Permit costs are:
  • Boating: Daily $5,
  • Camping: Basic (primitive) $6 per night, Improved (water & elec) $12 per night.
  • Fishing: Individual daily $3, annual $25. Family annual $30.
  • Fishing/Boating Combinations: Daily $5, annual individual $30, family $35.
  • User Pass: Daily $3, daily plus car/boat combo $5, annual $15 and senior $10.

    Page Author

    Walt Cross holds a master of science degree in recreation. A former park ranger, he enjoys the out-of-doors, particularly lakes and ponds. The life that abounds in these aquatic worlds fascinate him. In December of 1992 he completed a study of Lake Carl Blackwell that investigated the impact of recreation upon an aquatic environment. The completed study is available in OSU's Edmon Low library.
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    This Page Was Last Updated on Saturday, January 1, 2000.

    For information about this page, send e-mail to Walt Cross

    A link to Captain David L. Payne Camp, Sons of Union Veterans

    Key Words

    fishing outdoors recreation water sports camping wildlife boats water craft lures fishbait bobbers tackle