Robert S Kerr Information

Robert S. Kerr Lake, commonly referred to as Kerr Lake, is nestled in Cookson Hills, on the Arkansas River in Haskell, Le Flore, Muskogee, and Sequoyah Counties in eastern Oklahoma. Kerr Lake is about eight miles south of its nearest town, Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Kerr Lake covers 43,800 acres with 278 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 52 feet. Cookson Hills are the southernmost extension of the Boston Mountains, which are part of the southern extension of the Ozark Mountains.

The Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which provides barge navigation on the Arkansas River and its tributaries. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the locks and navigation system and operates Kerr Lake. The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System locks lift vessels 48 feet. Boats entering the lower pool at an elevation of 412 feet must be raised to 460 feet at the upper pool level in Kerr Lake.

Several large and a few small islands float in Kerr Lake. Kerr Lake and its surrounding lands are popular destinations for boating, fishing, hiking, and hunting. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds 10,790 acres of land around Kerr Lake's eastern half for public hunting. The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Sequoyah NWR) on the northwestern part of Kerr Lake protects 20,800 acres, and Kerr Lake’s Cattail islands belong to this refuge. 

It is important for visitors to Kerr Lake to understand the governing of public use of Kerr Lake’s navigation pools, which are published in Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327, of the Code of Federal Regulations. Bottomland forests, farmlands, rolling hills, craggy shorelines, and slim sandy beaches characterize the terrain surrounding Kerr Lake.

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History of Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Construction of Robert S. Kerr Reservoir began in April 1964 and was completed in October 1970. The Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam became operational for navigation in December 1970. The dam also contains a small hydroelectric power plant with four units capable of producing a combined total of 110 megawatts. A turbine and generator rehabilitation process to upgrade the power plant began in 2020.

Ancient campsites dating as far back as 1100 AD serve as reminders of the Native Americans that traveled through or lived in Kerr Lake region. They depended on the Arkansas River. The Sequoyah NWR preserves some of these ancient camp sites. Within the refuge and before European settlers, Caddoan and other cultures depended on its land and river for centuries. During America’s Civil War, the Arkansas River served as a historic boundary between Union and Confederate forces who found themselves stationed on opposing sides of the river.

Sallisaw, Oklahoma, about seven and a half miles northeast of the middle of Kerr Lake’s eastern shores, was the starting point for the Joads family in John Steinbeck's classic American novel, Grapes of Wrath. The devastating Dust Bowl lasted from 1930 to 1940, of which destructive farming techniques were to blame. The Sallisaw region actually survived the Dust Bowl better than other Oklahoma regions because of the many lakes and wooded hills in the region.

The great Cherokee leader and scholar, Sequoyah, called Sallisaw his home for many years. Sequoyah is the only man known to invent an entire syllabic alphabet, which allowed his people to read and write in their native tongue. Sequoyah signed his name as ᏎᏉᏯ Se-quo-ya. He called himself George Gist or George Guess when using his English name.

Sequoyah was born in the 1770s in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee on the Tennessee River. His name, Sikwo-yi, is Cherokee for “pig’s foot”, which led historians to believe that he was crippled. Sequoyah was a mixed-blood Cherokee. His mother, Wureth, was a member of the Cherokee Paint Clan. His father, Nathaniel Gist, was a Virginia fur trader.

Sequoyah made his trade as a silversmith and learned how to sign his name on his work. He first conceived the idea of a Cherokee writing system at that time. Sequoyah served in the U.S. Army during the Creek War from 1813 to 1814. Consequently, he witnessed soldiers writing letters to their families and recording the events of the war. His desire to create a written language for the Cherokee blossomed.

In 1822, Sequoyah lived in Arkansas territory with other Old Settler Cherokee, which were any Cherokee living in Indian Territory prior to the Trail of Tears. After years of Sequoyah creating the 85 characters that stand for each syllable in the Cherokee language, the Cherokee Nation established the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper published by American Indians in 1828.

In 1829, President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act forced Sequoyah and several thousand other Cherokees to move to Jackson’s newly defined Indian Territory in today’s Oklahoma, where Sequoyah hand-built his cabin near present-day Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The Sequoyah NWR has preserved his cabin within a stone building on its original site. Sequoyah spent many years in Oklahoma before venturing to Mexico, where he died around 1844.

Sequoyah’s Cherokee syllabary had an international influence. Sequoyah’s work led to the creation of additional scripts on three continents and inspired the development of 21 known scripts or writing systems, which were used in 65 languages, in North America, Africa, and Asia. Today, the Cherokee operate the Cherokee Casino and Hotel in the small town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, about ten miles from Sequoyah’s cabin.

Fishing Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Predominant game species are largemouth, spotted, striped, and white bass, bluegill, blue, channel, and flathead catfish, black and white crappie, alligator gar, paddlefish, saugeye, sauger, green and redear sunfish, and walleye, plus trout in the Arkansas River. Anglers will find easy access to shoreline fishing from the bank at dozens of locations around the lake, including at Sequoyah NWR, five parks, campgrounds, boat launch ramps, and at the one marina.

Much of Kerr Lake’s bottom is composed of a mixture of sand, silt, and clay. If its soft lake bottom is stirred up, the water takes on a murky appearance. The mouth of the Illinois River and the area between I-40 Bridge, Webbers Fall, and Gore, Oklahoma, have a few gravel bars. This area is located north of Kerr Lake.

Kerr Lake has many creek inlets and coves, which contain flooded timber. Aquatic vegetation is primarily water willow found along the shoreline. Rocks found along riprap provide suitable cover. Bull tongue, water lily, curlyleaf pondweed, and milfoil are sporadically spread throughout the lake. Fishing guide charters operate on several area lakes, and not exclusively on Lake Kerr.

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Fishing Regulations

  • A resident or nonresident fishing license is required of all persons who take or attempt to take fish, including trout, unless otherwise exempt.
  • Black and White Crappie: 37 combined white or black/ no size limit.
  • Saugeye, Sauger, and Walleye: 6 limit/ 14″ minimum
  • Blue and Channel Catfish: 15 Combined/ Only one Channel or Blue over 30″
  • Flathead Catfish: 5 limit/ no size limit
  • Spotted Bass: no limit or size
  • Striped Bass: 5 limit/ No size limit
  • Striped Hybrid Bass: 20 limit/ Only 5 over 30″
  • White Bass: No limit/ No Size Limit
  • Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass: 6 per day minimum 14″
  • Alligator Gar: 1 a day/ No size limit
  • Trout: three trout combined/ no minimum size limit for rainbow, or brown trout/ After the first day, no person shall have more than six trout in their possession

Find experienced local guides on our Kerr Lake Fishing Guides page.

Boating Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Kerr Lake visitors enjoy many water sports, including sailing, power boating, water skiing, personal watercraft, windsurfing, swimming, and house boating, which is extremely popular because of the lack of waterfront cabins and vacation homes. Its 250 miles of shoreline includes many coves and inlets that make house boating especially pleasurable.

Boaters should take caution because Kerr Lake is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System with a lock system that lifts vessels 48 feet. Boats entering the lower pool at an elevation of 412 feet must be raised to 460 feet at the upper pool. Boaters on Kerr Lake must acutely acknowledge the barge traffic. Keep out of the barge’s way to stay safe. Canoes and kayaks are susceptible to the tipping because of wakes from barges. Plan ahead with our Kerr Lake Level page. 

If commercial traffic is heavy, pleasure craft may be required to wait approximately one and a half hours or may be permitted to lock through with the commercial vessels. Title 36, Chapter III, Part 327, of the Code of Federal Regulations publishes copies of rules and regulations governing public use of the navigation pools. People can get copies of the code from the Robert S. Kerr Project Office, or the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers.

Kerr Lake is exceptional for pleasure boating and fishing boats. The Applegate Cove marina is the only marina and a concession-operated marina that supplies boating needs, repair services, boat rentals, cabin rentals, covered and uncovered slip rentals, a ship’s store, a seafood restaurant, and expansions are underway.

There are plenty of islands to visit. The Cattail Islands on the northern side of Kerr Lake are part of the Sequoyah NWR and some of them may be off limits to boaters at different times. There are three designated swim beaches on Corp of Engineer’s property, and many other beaches dotted Lake Kerr’s shorelines. Lake Kerr’s coves and inlets provide private anchoring spots.

Find where to put in with our Kerr Lake Boat Ramps Map, and find or sell a boat on our Kerr Lake Boats for Sale page.

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Cabins and Vacation Homes

Most of Kerr Lake’s shoreline falls under USACE ownership, so few vacation rentals are located directly on the Lake Kerr’s waterfront. Visitors will find houseboat rentals easily and real estate rentals available in the near vicinity of the lake. Visitors can find many vacation home rentals in nearby towns such as Sallisaw, Gore, or Spiro.

Applegate Cove Marina in Sallisaw features a floating two-bedroom cabin that sleeps up to six guests. This cabin offers guests a full kitchen and bath, coffeemaker, microwave, oven, stove, television, and DVD/VHS player. Applegate Cove Marina also offers several more cabin rental options. Be sure to book in advance because Lake Kerr is popular and with beautiful scenery.

Find the perfect vacation home on our Kerr Lake Cabins page.

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Real Estate

The USACE owns most of the shoreline on Kerr Lake, so lake homes and lots are few with extremely expensive price points. At any given time, there may be one or two listings near Brent, Cowlington, Keota, or Tamaha, Oklahoma, and near the Cherokee Nation Sallisaw Creek State Park.

The nearest towns with shopping and a Walmart is Sallisaw, Oklahoma, at eight miles northeast, and Ft. Smith, Arkansas, at 25 miles east, and there is a seafood restaurant at the Applegate Cove Marina that serves alcohol. Most restaurant options are located in Sallisaw. Cave Springs Public Schools, Keota School District, and Sallisaw Public Schools serve educational needs near Kerr Lake. The only metroplex in Oklahoma is Oklahoma City at 145 miles west of Kerr Lake.

To find your dream lake home, explore our Kerr Lake Homes for Sale page.

Camping at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages three campgrounds at Kerr Lake. Its Applegate Cove facility offers 27 tent sites with electric hookups, fire pits, grills, picnic shelters, picnic tables, and water hookups, plus it is pet friendly. The USACE’s Cowlington Point has 38 tent sites with two boat ramps, courtesy docks, a playground, a volleyball court, and a group picnic site, plus the same amenities as Applegate Cove.

The USACE’s Short Mountain Cove campground has 42 tent sites, two playgrounds, a basketball goal, a boat ramp, a trail to the top of Short Mountain, and a courtesy dock along with electric hookups, fire pits, grills, picnic shelters, picnic tables, and water hookups, plus it is pet friendly. The USACE charges fees for these services.

There are different charges for overnight camping for each class of USACE park. Parties who have paid a camping fee are exempt from any additional charges for day use activities. Group camping fees are based on the facilities available within the group site. There is a small additional charge for sites with direct water or sewer hookups, or sites that are designated as prime sites.

There are five RV parks near, not on Kerr Lake’s waterfront. The Lakeside Park and Campground has tent sites and RV hookups. Golden Pond RV Park sits on breathtakingly beautiful property. The Gore RV Park in Gore, Oklahoma, offers long-term rental sites only a few miles from the Arkansas River just north of Kerr Lake.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Kerr Lake Camping page.

Kerr Lake Day Use Only Parks

The Cherokee Nation received nearly 800 acres in Sequoyah County from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1998. The Cherokee Nation Sallisaw Creek State Park has a boat ramp, picnic tables, 14 miles of horseback trails, and fishing areas. This park is open seven days a week and located on Dwight Mission Road eight miles southwest of Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Summer hours are 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and winter hours are 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Robert S. Kerr Reservoir Hiking Trails

Short Mountain Hiking Trail, a 5.4-mile hike, takes you to the top of Short Mountain at Robert S. Kerr Lake. From the trailhead, it is a steep climb up the mountain and rated as strenuous. There is one deep drop off surrounded by tall rock cliffs. The trail gets close to the edge at one point, and the footing can be loose. Once you reach the top, you see a magnificent view of Kerr Lake.

The Short Mountain trailhead is located at the Dam off of US-59 on the south side. Park at the dam and walk up towards the lake. A variety of unmarked hiking trails wind throughout the hills around and along the shoreline of Kerr Lake. Cherokee Nation Sallisaw Creek State Park has 14 miles of horseback trails.

Hunting Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

The USACE permits hunting on much of its 10,790 acres, and the Sequoyah NWR allows hunting on certain sections of the refuge. Some of the Catttail Islands, which belong to the Sequoyah NWR in Kerr Lake, are off-limits due to species preservation. Visitors Centers at both facilities have copies of complete hunting regulations. The Cherokee Nation Sallisaw Creek State Park allows archery hunting and fishing only for Cherokee Nation citizens.

Principal game species are white-tailed deer, fox and gray squirrels, cottontail and swamp rabbits, raccoons, minks, opossums, bobwhite quail, mourning dove, and several species of waterfowl. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) oversees hunting regulations in the entire state. Some general regulations follow.

No person may attempt to take, take, attempt to catch, catch, attempt to capture, capture, attempt to kill, or kill any deer, feral animal or other wildlife, except fish and frogs or except as provided by law, by the use of a vehicle-mounted spotlight or other powerful light at night, by what is commonly known as “headlighting” or “spotlighting” or use any light enhancement device such as a night scope.

Sequoyah, Le Flore, and parts of Haskell County have a limit of two antlerless deer for deer muzzleloader season and a two antlerless deer limit for deer gun season. Dogs may not be used in taking bear, deer, elk, antelope, and turkey. All deer, elk, antelope, bear, or turkey taken must be reported by the hunter to the ODWC within 24 hours of leaving the hunt area.

Once game is reported, a carcass tag or online confirmation number will be issued. This tag or confirmation number must remain with the carcass to its final destination or through processing and/or storage at a commercial processing or storage facility. Evidence of sex must remain naturally attached to the carcass until the harvest has been properly reported.

No person may harass, attempt to capture, capture, attempt to take, take, kill or attempt to kill any wildlife with the aid of any motor-driven land, air or water conveyance, except a non-ambulatory person may hunt from said conveyances with a non-ambulatory or motor vehicle permit.

Unless otherwise provided by state law, a person may carry a firearm on any private or public state lands. This includes, but is not limited to, while hunting, fishing, scouting, and tracking. Federal lands such as Corps of Engineers or National Wildlife Refuges are subject to additional regulations that may prevent the provisions of this act. Hunters must obtain permission to enter any posted or occupied land or land primarily devoted to farming, ranching, or forestry purposes.

All migratory birds, which include all hawks, owls, eagles, songbirds, and all other birds are protected by federal and state law. House sparrows and starlings are the only birds not protected by either federal or state law. Federal regulations provide for the control of blackbirds under a depredation order.

Things to Do at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Observation decks at the Visitor’s Center provide an excellent view of barges and pleasure craft as they pass through the lock on the north side of the dam right off of US 59 on Kerr Lake’s eastern border. This lock lifts vessels up to 70 feet long and 48 feet high into Kerr Lake from the Arkansas River. It is so exciting to watch the lock’s heavy barge traffic.

The Overstreet-Kerr Historical Farm is a completely restored and furnished early 19th century farmstead, complete down to kitchen utensils, a potato house, herb gardens, and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. This farm features early livestock breeds, including Choctaw ponies, Pineywoods cattle, pigs, and Spanish goats. It is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by reservations for groups of 10 or more. The farm is ADA accessible, and is located at Rural Route 2, Keota, Oklahoma.

The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge offers auto touring, boating, interpretive programs, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Only Cherokee Nation citizens can hunt and fish at the refuge. It includes the Cattail Islands and is a Bald Eagle breeding ground. Named in honor of Sequoyah, the Cherokee who developed syllabary alphabet for the Cherokee language, his cabin is the centerpiece of the refuge. His hand-built cabin where he lived for many years is on its original site and is housed inside a stone building built in 1936 by FDR’s Works Progress Administration.

Check out the Cherokee Casino and Hotel in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, just eight miles northeast of Kerr Lake’s northeastern border. This casino features live music while you chow down on great food and drink from its Back 40 Bar & Grill, and bet you will win while taking advantage of its casino gambling specials with exciting slots.

The 14 Flags Museum honors Oklahoma's history and influence of 14 separate nations. The museum is comprised of three cabins and a train depot. Samuel Lattimore built his cabin in 1835. His cabin is a unique survivor of the turbulent Civil War years in Oklahoma. Judge Franklin Faulkner built his cabin during the 1840s. Faulkner married a Cherokee woman and was forced to migrate into Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The 14 flags flown over the museum represent the nations who claimed today’s Oklahoma territory from Spain, circa 1541, to all the Indian Nation flags, and onto today’s Oklahoma flag, designed in 1925. 

Plan your trip with our What To Do At Kerr Lake page, and check out our Kerr Lake Event Calendar.

Robert S. Kerr Lake Weather & Climate

Kerr Lake sees an average of 47 inches of rain, with four inches of snow, and 218 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 27 degrees with a summer high in July of 92 degrees. May, September, and October are the most comfortable months for this region.

Keep an eye on the skies with our Kerr Lake Weather Forecast page.

Kerr Lake Zip Codes

Haskell County: 74440, 74462, 74472, 74552, 74561, 74941, 74943, 74944.

Le Flore County: 74549, 74571, 74577, 74901, 74902, 74930, 74932, 74935, 74936, 74937, 74939, 74940, 74941, 74942, 74944, 74947, 74949, 74951,  74953, 74956, 74957, 74959, 74966.

Muskogee County: 74401. 74402. 74403, 74422, 74423, 74428, 74434, 74435, 74436, 74450, 74455, 74463, 74468, 74469, 74470, 74472.

Sequoyah County: 74435, 74901, 74936, 74945, 74946, 74948, 74954, 74955, 74962.

Flora and Fauna at Robert S. Kerr Reservoir

Located on the Central Flyway Migratory Route, an international migratory bird tracking system, Lake Kerr sees a large variety of migrating birds and waterfowl stop by on their ways north and south. Thousands of snow geese blanket Lake Kerr’s shoreline in spring and fall. In November and December, flocks of snow geese on the Sequoyah NWR can reach up to 20,000 in number, the largest flock in the state of Oklahoma.

Kerr Lake’s craggy shoreline is an excellent place to spot wildlife, so bring your camera and binoculars. Kerr Lake’s fertile bottomlands create an excellent habitat for thousands of mallards that choose it as their seasonal home along the Central Flyway. Gadwalls, pintails, teals, wigeons, shovelers, and wood ducks join the mallards.

Common wildlife sighting are armadillos, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, opossums, rabbits, squirrels, white-tailed deer, and woodchucks. Bald eagles nest in several locations on the Sequoyah NWR. In winter, you can see many bald eagles roosting in cottonwoods or swooping over the waters in search of fish or waterfowl. Sequoyah NWR hosts some of the largest bald eagle populations in the state of Oklahoma.

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Robert S Kerr Current Weather Alerts

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Robert S Kerr Weather Forecast


Becoming Sunny

Hi: 80

Monday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 56


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 85

Tuesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 62


Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 85

Wednesday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 66


Rain Showers

Hi: 77

Thursday Night

Thunderstorms Likely

Lo: 59