One of the great things about the state of Oklahoma is how diverse it is. From the rolling green hills of the east to the grassy prairie of the west, there is a little bit of everything. So whether you're a longtime Oklahoma City resident looking for a quick getaway or an out-of-town guest hoping to spice up your visit, there are a number of easy and interesting day trip options from the metro, one of which is Oklahoma's Lake Murray to the south. Here's a detailed look at the nearby vacation spot, including sites of interest, recreational activities, restaurants in the area, and more.
About Lake Murray
Lake Murray State Park holds the unique distinction as being Oklahoma's first state park. Named after the Oklahoma governor at the time, William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, the lake was created in the 1930s. Not only is it the state's first, but it's also the largest at about 12,500 total acres. The area includes a large lodge, cabins, campsites, parks, beaches, recreational sites, and much, much more. It is one of the state's most popular spots for fishing and boating. In fact, it attracts nearly 2 million visitors each year.
How to Get There
Getting to Lake Murray from Oklahoma City is a breeze. Take I-35 south past Moore and Norman toward the city of Ardmore. Total driving time is a little over an hour and a half, and the park is located just a bit south of Ardmore.
As I-35 signage indicates, take the OK 77S exit, Exit 24, and travel east a few miles to Lake Murray State Park. Highway 77S is the primary route to reach all the sites and activities as well. It runs all around the lake, meeting up with Highway 70 at both the northwest and northeast sides. The drive, scenic and interesting, is an attraction in and of itself.
What to Do
There's a lot more to do at Lake Murray than just admiring the natural beauty, of course. Here are just a few of the activities and recreational opportunities offered.
- Camping: Numerous campground sites dot the west side of the lake, from Duke's Forest up north to those around the park office. Each has shower areas, RV hook-ups, playgrounds, and nearby boat ramps. On the east side, check out Martin's Landing, a large campsite near the sandy swimming beach, or go to the southernmost tip of the lake for the beautifully wooded Marietta's Landing. Sites at Rock Tower on the southeast side are perhaps better spaced out than some of the others.
- Swimming: Sunset Beach on the east side of the lake is a great place for swimming. There's also a swimming beach on the southwest side of the lake near the marina.
- Fishing: Although it does not rank as one of the state's best fishing lakes, Lake Murray is a very good spot for bass, particularly smallmouth. There is a fishing dock at Martin's Landing, and the lake has a number of small coves perfect for fishing from a boat. If you wish to use bait, you might just have to make a trip. The marina has worms, frozen shad, and chicken livers, but for minnows, go north to the Lake Country Store or Paul's Place toward Ardmore. Both are about a five- to 10-minute drive.
- Boating: Most of the recreation areas have boat ramps. The marina, located on the southwest part of the lake, gives you a chance to fuel up and has pontoon boats for rent.
- Water Sports and Rentals: Just up the street from the Lake Murray Lodge is a rental area for sailboats, personal watercrafts, fishing boats, and water sports accessories such as skis and tubes. If you're not looking for the speed of a jet ski or boat, how about a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or paddleboat?
- If you have a group, get the Big Kahuna or the two-deck Island Cruiser. Both have jet ski, water slide, and BBQ grill. They're available for either a half day or a whole day, and security deposit is required, of course. The Big Kahuna can accommodate as many as 25.
- Or for the ultimate group experience, consider a guided lake cruise. There's a pontoon cruise, but the highlight is the huge houseboat. With a minimum of 25 passengers, you can get a private sailing with dinner included. Advanced reservations are required. The rentals outside of the marina are handled by a locally owned business called Lake Murray Water Sports. Get more information about packages and make reservations at LakeMurrayWaterSports.com or by calling (580) 223-7185. They are open from mid-April through mid-September.
- Miniature Golf: The company noted above also manages an 18-hole miniature golf course right next to the rental station. There's a concession stand with snow cones, drinks, and more.
- Golf: Step up from mini golf to the real thing at the 18-hole Lake Murray Golf Course. With mature trees, a waterfall and more, it's beautifully landscaped.
- Riding Stables: Also at the golf course are the riding stables, offering visitors the opportunity to take a guided, four-mile trail ride.
- Trails: The miles of trails are a highlight of Lake Murray, and an excellent opportunity to walk or hike in a wonderful natural setting. The Buckham Trail traces wooded areas on the west side while the Anadarche Trail further north begins amidst the pecan trees at Pecan Grove.
- ATV/ORV: All-terrain enthusiasts will want to make their way to the northeast side of the lake for the 1,000-acre ATV/ORV trails. There is a fee to use the area, but it's for an all-day pass.
- Lake Murray Chapel: Looking to get married? Well, there are plenty of great sites right here in Oklahoma City, but the Lake Murray Chapel is perhaps not one you would have considered. Built in the 1960s and located just off the main Lodge Road by the park offices, it hosts many weddings each year but is also a good place for any large event. For booking information, call (580) 223-4044.
- Tucker Tower / Nature Center: Last, but certainly not least, do not miss a trip to the Tucker Tower (pictured). Not only does it offer an incredible, picturesque view of the lake for miles, it's a site of historical significance. It was originally built with the intention of it functioning as a summer retreat for Oklahoma governors, but that plan never came to fruition. Today, it has a number of historical museum exhibits on topics such as tools and machinery, and at the base is the glass-sided nature center with interactive exhibits on area insects, fish, and wildlife. It's an entertaining and educational attraction. Be aware, though, that it's quite a climb up the stone steps to the tower. Those with physical impediments may need to rest a few times along the way. Similarly, the cramped ascent along the tower's interior winding staircase could pose a concern for those with claustrophobia.
Where to Stay
As you can see, there's more to explore than you can possibly do in a day. So if you want to turn a day trip into a weekend or more, consider the Lake Murray Lodge. Rooms and suites are available, and the lodge features a restaurant, gift shop, game room, pool, and tennis courts. Call (800) 257-0322 or (580) 223-6600 for reservations.
Or, for a more rustic experience, rent one of the cabins. They are fairly close together but offer a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and a flat-screen television in addition to the fire pit and outdoor grill. Some have screened porches, and there are options for groups as big as 12. In contrast to some other state park cabins, though, note that Lake Murray cabins do not have cooking utensils, pans, or plates, so you'll need to bring your own. Also, while you can find some wood to make a campfire around the perimeter area of your cabin, firewood is otherwise not provided.
Either bring wood from home or purchase individual pieces at the lodge. The vast majority of the cabins are a good walking distance from the lake itself; therefore, they don't possess the amazing lake views you might find at some other Oklahoma state parks.
For a lake view, there is the unique experience of the Lake Murray floating cabins. If you have a boat or jet ski, park it right alongside the front porch of your temporary home on the lake. There aren't many of these, though, and they fill up quickly. So reserve well in advance of your trip. For cabin and floating cabin reservations, call the lodge number above, or check their website.
Where to Eat and Drink
The Apple Bin restaurant at the lodge is the closest option for dining. Casual with a nice lake view, it serves American dishes such as burgers and sandwiches, and it is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look for buffet times as well. The marina has snacks, and Fireside Dining just west of the park offers steak and seafood. Otherwise, the best dining options are in the city of Ardmore. Well-rated spots include Cafe Alley, Prairie Kitchen, and Ten Star Pizza.