Fort Gibson Lake, located about 50
miles east of Tulsa, can best be approached on the Muskogee Turnpike,
exiting on US 69 to reach the west side or on US 62 through the town of
Fort Gibson to the dam site and the east side. This is one of the
outstanding places in the state for a diversity of birds all year. The
lake encompasses over 19,000 acres of open water. It is bordered on the
east by wooded hills and creek bottoms and on the west by rolling
The best route begins north of the
community of Fort Gibson on SH 80. From the corner of Mac's Drive-in it
is 5 miles to the dam site. This is Canyon Road along the Grand River.
The 3 former picnic areas along this road are now closed to vehicles,
but birders can walk in, especially at #1 and #3. Flowers Creek is area
#3, and some good migrating warblers have been seen here in the past.
Area #2 is overgrown with lots of poison ivy, and is not recommended as
a birding site anymore. Many species of sparrows are found along Canyon
Rd. in the winter: Fox, Swamp, Lincoln's, and others. Look for Bald
Eagles in winter, perched in the trees across the river.
At the dam site, many gulls may be
observed in winter - Bonaparte's, Herring, Ring-billed, and occasionally
Glaucous, plus eagles and both vulture species. In recent years 10 to 20
eagles have been counted along the river. In summer Cliff Swallows nest
under the concrete overhang below the dam. Follow SH 80 up the hill from
the dam for 2.3 miles to the Norwood Baptist Church. Turn left (north)
at this corner and proceed around the east side of the lake.
Near the Ranger Creek bridge, 1.1 miles
from the church corner, is excellent birding, especially in the spring.
Many good migrant warblers - the Ovenbird, Redstart, Black-throated
Green, Mourning, Magnolia, and Wilson's - as well as nesting warblers -
the Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Kentucky, Parula, and
Prothonotary - are found here. Check here in winter for the Rufous-sided
Towhee and Hermit Thrush.
Facilities at the Wildwood Public Use
Area, 4.3 miles from Ranger Creek, include one camping area, plus other
pull offs, for a total of 2 miles driving through each area. It is a
good place to have a full view of the lake and birding is fine. At the
community of Hulbert, 4.8 miles from Wildwood, turn left (west) on SH 51
toward Wagoner. The entrance to Western Hills at Sequoyah State Park is
6 miles from Hulbert. A nice nature center is found in the park. The
birding is good throughout the park, and one can spend hours exploring
all the different areas. No map is needed. Just check each area from the
main road for birds. Pine trees are numerous, so there will be Pine
Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, etc.
The SH 51 bridge over the main body of
the lake and the Taylor Ferry Public Use Area (1.7) are usually
excellent places to see waterfowl and gulls in winter. On a section-line
road 4 miles west of Taylor Ferry (just before a cemetery) turn south
and travel 1.4 miles to another section-line road. Lapland Longspurs,
Horned Larks and hawks come to the open grassland in winter.
Rough-legged Hawk is a possibility. Turn left (east) for 0.5 mile to the
Fort Gibson Wildlife Refuge sign. Turn left to the headquarters and
park. The area gives an excellent view of the Snow Geese which winter
here. All three mergansers frequent the lake, and Bald Eagles perch in
trees along the shore. White Pelicans are here most of the time. After
leaving the Refuge, return to the section line, turning left (south) for
1 mile, then left. Follow this road 1.7 miles (it automatically turns
south) to another section line. Turn left (east) on blacktop road and
travel 1.7 miles to the 3-Bays sign (Sequoyah, Jackson, and Wahoo).
Continue east on this road for one mile to the second 3-Bays sign.
Explore all three bays as all are excellent birding spots. Jackson will
have Snow Geese, ducks, grebes, plus Wild Turkeys if you are lucky.
Wahoo will have Common Loons and gulls.
Return to the first 3-Bays sign and
turn left (south) at the crossroads. Travel 2 miles and turn left (east)
on SH 251A toward Fort Gibson dam. From this corner it is 1 mile to the
Mallard Bay sign. Turn left (north) and follow this road to the lake.
Common Loons, ducks, and Osprey are possibilities. Return to the main
road. Turn left and continue 3.1 miles on SH 251A to the overlook and
nature trail near the dam headquarters. From the west side of the dam,
stop at the campground where birding is good if there are not too many
campers. There may be Bald Eagles in trees along the river in fall and
winter. Cross to the east end of the dam to conclude the trip.
Ornithologically, Fort Gibson Lake is
truly the place in Oklahoma where east meets west. During spring
migration virtually all of the passerines, including some 30 warblers
which use the Central Flyway, can be looked for in the wooded hills and
creek bottoms which border the lake's east side. Conversely, just across
the lake to the west, a prairie habitat prevails and there is a western
flavor evident in the avifauna. When possible it is preferable to work
from the dam up the east side along SH 80 during the morning hours and
on the west side in the afternoon, thereby keeping the sun at the
observer's back and greatly improving visibility on the lake.