Grand Lake and the Pensacola Dam

One of my favorite places in Oklahoma…….

Welcome back. Fiddler Jana Jae from the T.V. series Hee Haw, hot rod designer and builder Daryl Starbird and musician, comic and television personality Roy Clark are all from the Grove, Oklahoma area. Grove is my destination this Thursday night where I will be showing my film for a fundraiser for the town library. Thousands of tourists flock to Grove every year and it’s easy to see why but first a little history about the area.
Named for a grove of trees, the town has been around since before statehood, first as a small community in Indian Territory. A post office was established in 1888 and town leaders officially incorporated the settlement in the 1890s.
According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the first proposal for building a dam for hydroelectric power on the nearby Grand (lower Neosho) River came from a Cherokee tribal member named Henry Holderman in 1907 but it wasn’t until 1938 that construction began on what would be called the Pensacola Dam. Construction was funded by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the depression and the depression era workers hired by the WPA poured concrete 24 hours a day. The dam was completed in 1940 and if you haven’t heard of this engineering and construction wonder it is the largest multiple arch dam in the world. Grand Lake of the Cherokees or simply Grand Lake was created by the flooding of over 43,000 acres by the dam.
With a surface area of over 59,000 acres and 1,300 miles of shoreline, as you can imagine this is a popular destination for recreation. Along with all manner of water sports, nowadays big resorts, great restaurants, marinas and million dollar private homes surround the lake but bass fishing is the biggest draw for visitors. The bass fishing is so good that the prestigious Bassmaster Classic competition has been held here twice, one in 2013 and again in 2016.
Another interesting fact is that nearby Lake Hudson which is another popular fishing lake and was also constructed by the WPA, and Grand Lake are the only two major lakes in Oklahoma which allow you to build a home right on the water’s edge making housing there even more attractive to weekenders and retirees. Grove, Disney, Langley and Bernice are all scenic small towns well worth a stop during a leisurely drive around the lake.
As for me, it sometimes seems that the road doesn’t get any shorter. This weekend I’ll be in Tulsa for the largest gun show in the world followed by a long weekend in Topeka, Kansas and then another in Wichita with R&K guns shows and along the way there will be several library fundraisers all in different communities.
If you’re looking for history you need not travel as I do because on April 13th at 5:30 PM the Washington County Historical Society’s featured speaker is Dr. Bob Blackburn who is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Bob knows his stuff and is sure to deliver a talk that everyone will enjoy. I know this because I have heard him speak several times before and I guarantee you will like him too. Call (918) 534-0215 for more info.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……………………..

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