Your Guide to Visiting Lake Murray, Oklahoma's Largest State Park
The air is filled with the smell of fresh lawn clippings and charcoal grills and the sounds of summer echo through the streets of Ardmore. It’s our favorite time of year in south-central Oklahoma.
With a population of around 25,000, Ardmore offers visitors big city spunk while also possessing the charm of a lake town. Just a few miles southeast of Ardmore, you’ll find Oklahoma’s oldest and largest state park – Lake Murray State Park.
History of Lake Murray State Park
Let’s travel back to the 1930s. Franklin Roosevelt had just been elected President of the United States and was tasked with getting the nation back on track after the stock market crash of October 1929. This task was intensified in Oklahoma with the agricultural crisis of the Dust Bowl. Two of the federal programs President Roosevelt created directly affected south central Oklahoma during this time. The Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps were integral in the creation of Lake Murray and several facilities in the area. Named after former Governor of Oklahoma William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, the state park is the largest in the state, covering more than 12,500 acres.
The beautiful man-made lake features 5,700 surface acres of water and is one of the clearest lakes in the state. The Ardmore area and nearby lake are the perfect weekend escape for both city folks and lake lovers.
Things to Do
When planning a visit to Lake Murray, a must-stop spot is Tucker Tower. This iconic structure extends 65 feet into the air and provides a panoramic view of the lake’s aquamarine waters. Another WPA project, this tower was originally designed to be a retreat for Oklahoma governors. That plan never came to fruition. Instead, the tower was finished as a geological museum that originally housed the famed Lake Murray Meteorite (the fifth largest meteorite in the world!). It is currently open as an extension of the Lake Murray Nature Center, where you can learn more about the history and ecology of the area.
The tower can be accessed via a short hike along a peninsula on the lake. One of the best views in Chickasaw Country can be found high above the lake by taking the stairs to the top of Tucker Tower. Bald eagles are frequently seen soaring over Lake Murray from this scenic view.
Head to the aqua playground that is Lake Murray Water Sports & Mini Golf. Fun for the entire family is in store when you head down to the banks of this water wonderland. Paddleboats, kayaks, wave runners and even a party barge can be rented from Lake Murray Water Sports. If deep-water excursions aren’t your thing, try out the inflatable slide and trampoline in the shallows or the 18-hole miniature golf course overlooking the property!
If exploring the park is on your must-do list (and it should be), visit the Lake Murray Riding Stables to explore on horseback. Rides are available on weekends every hour from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and last about 45 minutes. The rides are great for groups or for venturing out solo. If horseback riding isn’t your style, they also offer hayrides.
Where to Stay
Stay at Lake Murray Lodge for another great view of the lake. The lodge has 32 lakeside guest rooms with private balconies that are perfect for enjoying your morning cup of coffee. The lodge offers meeting areas, stunning views of the lake and all the amenities you will need for a comfortable stay. Visitors can also stay directly on the lake at the Lake Murray Floating Cabins. These floating vacation villas are fully furnished and have private porches and docks to get you back on the water.
Downtown Ardmore, recently named “America’s favorite Main Street” by The Today Show’s online readers, certainly lives up to the title. From the charming brick sidewalks to the adorable boutiques and diverse dining options, this historic Main Street has many places to stroll around, explore, relax, and unwind after a day at the lake.
Café Alley is an upscale restaurant in downtown Ardmore with a menu that features a variety of gourmet dishes and a cozy and intimate atmosphere during the evening hours, while maintaining a light and casual mood during the day. Pair dinner at Café Alley with a show at the Charles B. Goddard Center, if the timing is right, for a superb night on the town. The Goddard Center is south-central Oklahoma’s premiere performing arts center and provides cultural experiences and art education for the area.
Ardmore offers other great dining options like Sunset Grill offering up USDA Prime Omaha steaks. Or Jimmy J’s Dairy Freeze offers great lunch and delicious sundaes, malts and shakes the old-fashioned way - the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
Whether you’re looking for big-city charm or you’re a lake lover, Ardmore is the next lake town you should have on your radar. When you visit, remember to use #VisitChickasaw on Instagram to share your photos with us!