Lake Thunderbird In Norman

Norman offers many things to do like watch football, visit museums, and countless outdoor activities. Lake Thunderbird in Norman, OK, and its surrounding park area is beloved by those in the central Oklahoma region. It offers countless recreational activities and a water supply to neighboring towns, but just 60 years ago there was a popular highway in this exact location and no lake to be found.

The History of Lake Thunderbird

Central Oklahoma in the 1940s and 50s was growing rapidly, but one obstacle was preventing further growth. Elected leaders, city officials, and chambers of commerce reasoned that the area would reach its limit of expansion without a better supply of water for use by its residents.

A plan for a reservoir was proposed in 1947, but army engineers turned it down. As years passed, the issue of water supply did not dissipate. In 1953, local governments of the neighboring towns Norman, Midwest City, Del City, Moore, and the Tinker Air Base raised another proposal, citing research that forecasted a water shortage by the 1970s or 80s. A seven-year-long study started in 1954 led to a detailed plan for the Norman Dam to begin construction in 1962.

The Oklahoma State Highway 9, which ran through the soon-to-be reservoir, was rerouted south to make room for the construction. Completed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the dam and lake were dedicated on the first of October 1965. Soon after, water filled the 7,220 feet long dam, which became the Little River Reservoir.

Naming Lake Thunderbird

In a contest of over 3,000 submissions to pick a name for the lake, a woman named Louie L. McKenzie won with the name Lake Thunderbird. Derived from the Native American myth of the Thunderbird, the name symbolizes power and strength.

Lake Thunderbird and Its Many Uses

Originally created for drinking water, Lake Thunderbird now serves a number of purposes, including recreation year-round for water and land lovers alike. The lake is well stocked with sunfish, saugeye, largemouth bass, and more for visitors fishing pleasure. There are two marinas to dock a boat after a day of fishing, with nine boat ramps and two beaches made for swimming in the man-made lake. The marinas are maintained by the Lake Thunderbird Boathouse volunteer organization, which also organizes several events and sessions during the year, such as sailing lessons and camps, a fundraising fishing derby, and boat races.

Lake Thunderbird State Park has amenities such as picnic tables for a nice lunch, an archery range for target practice, and playgrounds for the little ones. There are picnic shelters as well as RV sites and campsite land available. Those fond of horses can rent them for a trail ride. Other trails for hiking and biking also run throughout the park. The Lake Thunderbird Nature Center offers educational activities and exhibits including native snake displays, habitat talks, and outdoor adventures.

Eagle Sighting at Lake Thunderbird

One of the best parts about Lake Thunderbird is that it’s a great location for eagle watching. It falls within the range of bald eagle winter migration. As the lakes and rivers in the north begin to freeze, eagles fly south in long groups called streams that can be as long as 30 miles. In this eagle-watching corridor, you can see the birds as they fly from December through February. Even when the weather is cold, there is fun to be had and beauty to be seen at Lake Thunderbird.

Here are driving directions from Lake Thunderbird to our agency’s offices.