Kaw Lake is a 69 km2 reservoir with three main arms, located in Oklahoma. Nicknamed “nature’s playground”, it is the 7th largest lake by surface area in Oklahoma, lying mostly in Kay and Osage counties. Its name originated from the Native American Kaw nation which lives in the area.
Kaw Dam is a fairly new construction; it was authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1962. Construction work started in 1966 and the dam was completed in 1972, operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It is located on the Arkansas River, is 2.8 km long and 37 meters tall. The original Kaw City was flooded in 1975 and reconstructed 3 kilometers west of its initial location in the late ‘60s. It is now on a hill, overlooking the lake.
The agency that provides electricity to cities and towns Oklahoma, called Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, bought the substructure of the dam in 1987 and built hydroelectric plant, Kaw Hydroelectric, completed two years later. It generates 104 gigawatt hours of energy every year, producing power to over 35 municipal electric systems in the two states.
Kaw Lake is located East of Ponca city and 9.7 kilometers West of Newkirk, bordered by Kaw Wildlife Area. One quarter of the wildlife area is under cultivation, leased to local farmers. A small part of the crops is left untouched to serve as food for local wild animals. The artificial lake’s western shores there are nearly 1 km2 of wetlands.
Tourism and Leisure
There are a number of accommodation sites around Kaw Lake, including campsites. Camp McFadden on the Western part is the oldest housing on the shore, since it was created back in 1927 as a children’s camp on the Kygar ranch. It has high and low ropes courses, places for RVs and tents, cabins and a huge lodge with a kitchen. Future plans of development include softball and soccer fields, an archery range, and volleyball courts.
Osage Cove Public Use Area was completed in 1980 and covers 9 public areas with 2 access points. A total of 13 boat ramps, a marina and two swimming beaches can be found on the premises. Jet skiing, waterskiing and boating are the most popular water sports activities.
Fishermen can catch large specimens of catfish, white bass, crappie and walleye. Hunting is also possible during the season, with animals like deer, turkey, bobwhite quail and duck living in the area. The Kaw Lake Eagle Watch is held every January, where tourists can learn about and observe the lake’s large winter population of the mighty bald eagle. The Kaw Fest is held every June, when people gather for the good food, live music acts, and various games.
The Kaw Lake area is home to many trails of which the most popular is the Eagle View Hiking Trail, a 20-kilometer trek between Osage Cove and Burbank Landing. The Five Fingers Equestrian Trail is popular among horse-riding enthusiasts. The trail leads from Burbank Landing to Sarge Creek Cove Public Area. Both trails are closed during hunting season.