Lake Eufaula lake levels and why it matters

Any great fisherman will tell you checking lake levels can be as important as checking the weather. To illustrate this fact, we’re taking a look at how lake levels can impact your trip to the lake as well an interesting look back at the history of Lake Eufaula and its water levels.

What affects water levels at Lake Eufaula?

Rainwater is the primary varying factor on the Lake Eufaula lake level. The normal depth is 585 feet, it has a flood control pool of 597 feet, and a maximum dam level of 600 feet. The Eufaula Dam is used to regulate the depth of the lake. If the lake gets too deep flood gates are opened in order to release the water and regulate levels.

The dam has prevented more than $575.5 million in flood damages since its completion in 1964. However, over the past 56 years, heavy rains have tested the dam.

Eufaula Dam was higher than 595 feet twice in 2015 – in May, when flooding rains caused lake levels to rise to 599.68 feet and again in December when the level rose to 598.33 feet. The rain caused the lake to rise so rapidly the dam had to release water at a rate of 171,000 cubic feet per second. The high waters made for quite the spectacle at the dam as brown floodwaters invaded the banks along the Canadian River.

In 1990, the Lake Eufaula lake level reached a record level of 599.70 feet,  just barely squeaking under the maximum level of 600 feet and nearly an amazing 15 feet higher than normal. The United States Army Corps of Engineers had to release 235,000 cubic feet per second to control the flooding by opening the Eufaula Dam’s gates up 18 feet.

Lake Eufaula has also experienced low water levels at times. In 2007, after the driest six-month period in southeastern Oklahoma since 1921, average water levels at the lake were two to three feet below normal. At one point that year Lake Eufaula measured at 578.75 feet, more than six feet below normal.

Why are water levels important for fishing?

Paying attention to Lake Eufaula lake levels is important to the discerning fisherman.  Varying water depths affect the feeding patterns and location of species. If there is water being released from the dam, one can plan for downstream action. On Lake Eufaula, if water levels get too deep, areas may be closed off due to flooding. Levels that are too high and muddy can also affect whether or not the fish are biting.

If lake levels are too low, however, it can deplete the lake’s aquatic vegetation along the shoreline causing fish to avoid the lake borders. Shallow waters in the summer months make for warmer waters and fish can be more active. In the heat of the day, however, it is too hot for fish to be in shallow waters, making morning and evening the most favorable time of day to fish.

What safety precautions should be followed while fishing?

When fishing, regardless of the Lake Eufaula lake level, keep these safety measures in mind:

  • A life jacket is a must for all boat and shoreline fishing. Look for a life preserver that mixes practicality (pockets for your gear), comfort and safety to create the perfect fishing experience.
  • Keep an eye out for debris. After storms and during high water levels tree limbs and other debris often gets loose from the shore and into the water. Be conscious of your surroundings and potential hazards.
  • While fishing, if you are wading into the water advance slowly. Make sure that your foot is firmly planted and stable before taking the next step.
  • Don't fish in areas where it is not permitted and be attentive to buoy lines. These areas have been declared “off limits” to protect wildlife, vegetation, or for your safety.
  • Come prepared. Pack safety items including water, cell phone, map and first aid kit.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers maintains information on Lake Eufaula’s water clarity, water discharge times and amounts, as well as lake levels. They also have a website with daily updates on flood control status.

Lake Eufaula History & Lake Level

The Eufaula Dam stretches across the Canadian River with State Highway 71 running across the dam. Completed in 1964, the dam was dedicated by Lyndon B. Johnson, creating Lake Eufaula, one of the world's largest man-made lakes, covering 102,500 acres.

Why was Eufaula Dam built?

Congress approved construction of the Eufaula Dam which serves to provide flood control, water supply, navigation and hydroelectric power generation to the area. Built from concrete and earthen embankment the dam is 3,200 feet long and 114 feet high. Constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, it has three turbines and a capacity of 90 megawatts. The turbines allow the federal government to provide low-cost power to the area.

Legends of treasure in Lake Eufaula?

When lake levels are low, visitors keep an eye out for Standing Rock. Standing Rock was located five miles east of Eufaula and stood 40 to 63-feet above the waters of the Canadian River. The rock was named for a massive slab that broke loose from a cliff formation above the north bank of the river. The rock was used by early settlers as a spot for fishing, to survey the area, and as a landmark. When Eufaula Dam was built the lake covered Standing Rock and the directions to the treasure were hidden forever.

Legend is that a turtle and triangle markings on the rock indicate where to find buried treasure. Who buried the treasure? Well that depends which story you believe.

One legend tells of Coronado and his band of Conquistadors acquiring a significant amount of gold while in New Mexico. On their trip home the gold was slowing them down by weighing down the horses. The crew began to fall and decided to bury the treasure, with intentions to pick it up on their way back south. However, they never returned.

A second legend claims that in the 1870s, a rancher was returning home to Texas after driving a large herd of cattle to market in Kansas where he received a hefty sum. As he made his way back home, he fell ill and lost his way. Out of fear of being robbed by bandits, he buried the silver coins and sought out medical attention. Unfortunately, the rancher did not recover but on his deathbed, he confided in his doctor, providing instructions for where to find the treasure. The doctor was unable to retrieve the treasure and it remains unclaimed.

Much to love about Lake Eufaula

With beautiful scenery and 800+ miles of shoreline, Lake Eufaula is a favorite spot for fishing, boating, skiing, kayaking and other water activities. Lake Eufaula attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually and offers several camping and cabin options for visitors. 

To stay up to date and check current lake levels, check out the Corps of Engineers website anytime of year. 

Whether you’re looking for a great weekend getaway or place to call home, the team at Porches and Pastures can answer your questions about Lake Eufaula and the surrounding area.