Oklahoma Stories

Happy Trails: Cedar Lake Oklahoma

By Shannen McCroskey October 2017

Crisp mountain air, birds singing from tall cedar trees and smiling horseback riders are waiting to greet visitors at Cedar Lake located at the base of the Winding Stair Mountains in southeastern Oklahoma.

Cedar Lake is nestled in the Ouachita National Forest and appeals to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and demographics. 

“Whether you’re looking to cool off from the summer heat or hit the equestrian trails in late fall, Cedar Lake is the place for you,” Carol DeWitt, a Wister, Oklahoma, resident, says. 

Cedar Lake is home to a scenic reservoir that welcomes swimmers, fishermen and boating fanatics alike. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, the state record for the largest largemouth bass was set at Cedar Lake. The lake is regularly stocked with largemouth bass, catfish and bluegill fish, according to TravelOK.com. Fishermen have the option of fishing from the banks or using one of two on-site fishing piers. 

On the banks of the lake, visitors can find campsites to suit every campers’ needs. From sites with electric, sewer and water hookups to primitive locations—perfect for tent campers—all are welcome.

Brandon Taylor, resident of Natural Dam, Arkansas, organizes an annual camping trip to Cedar Lake with his family and friends. 

“Cedar Lake’s facilities offer a wide variety of amenities to accommodate an overnight hike-in trip with friends or a week-long stay in a motor coach. The well-maintained sites embrace the natural beauty and scenery of the lake and Winding Stair Mountains.”

Oklahomans are not the only people to enjoy the sights and amenities of Cedar Lake. Equestrian riders from Arkansas, Texas and surrounding states make the journey to southeastern Oklahoma to enjoy nearly 70 miles of marked riding trails. 

Emma Steelman, Kiamichi Electric Cooperative member, frequently saddles up her mule, Max, and sets out for the familiar trails of Cedar Lake. 

“You never meet a stranger out here,” Steelman says. “I love this place because it’s a wonderful way for me to meet new people who have the same interests as I do, close to home.”

Cedar Lake’s equestrian camp is set up in a functional way that offers campers a little more privacy than what families might typically find at other campgrounds. 

 “I like to visit with our neighbors at horse camp,” DeWitt says. “I’ve talked to people from Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Texas—they all talk about how well-thought-of Cedar Lake is throughout the Midwest, especially when it comes to equestrian facilities and amenities offered.”

If casting a line or saddling up an old friend is not a preferred hobby, Cedar Lake has playgrounds, volleyball courts and hiking trails that are ready to be enjoyed. 

Cedar Lake National Recreation Area is one of two trailheads for Horsethief Springs hiking trail. Portions of the trail were used in the 1800s by horse thieves as they made their camps and corrals along Winding Stair Mountains. Outlaws were drawn to this area because of the existence of a fresh water spring, according to TravelOK.com. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built a stone structure around the spring in attempts to prevent erosion. The structure still exists today; however due to the steep mountain and rocky trail, this trail is only recommended for expert-level hikers. Travel time is estimated between five and six hours one-way.

“There are few things I love more than being outside,” Brenda Woodard, a Poteau, Oklahoma, resident, says. “I love to hike these trails because you feel so close to nature out here. I’m always amazed at God’s ability to create so many shades of green. Regardless of what season you’re interested in visiting, it’s always the perfect time of year at Cedar Lake.”

Category: Oklahoma Stories
Cedar Lake is nestled in the Ouachita National Forest.

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