While the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was utter devastation, Oklahoma's take away wasn't only how important water was to the Sooner State, but a plan to conserve and redistribute it.

We've talked before about how Oklahoma is a state without a single natural lake. Literally, every single lake in the state has been manmade, and for good reason.

Oklahoma is a land of lakes. Always has been since the first people stepped foot here. Two of the five major Mississippi River tributaries flow through the Sooner State along with more than 500 other naturally flowing bodies of water.

When Oklahoma does finally get those much-needed big rains, it causes the opposite of a dust bowl... It creates a mud plain. Rivers tend to spill their banks and flood the lands surrounding them. Most Okies don't think about flood risks much these days because we managed to manage our water through dams, of which Oklahoma has the most dammed reservoirs in the nation.


In addition to controlling potential flood waters, there's a major benefit to having a massive reserve of water in any community... Whether it's for drinking or irrigation, water remains a key to all life.

While the dams of Texoma, Eufala, Grand Lake 'o the Cherokee's, and Keystone get all of the attention, there's one dam project that never met expectations...

Optima Lake

Back in the 1970s, Oklahoma was rolling on a successful trend of damming up any river they could. Reservoirs filled up across the state, flooding quickly became a rare thing, and it was an overall huge success until they tried it in the panhandle.


While the state included a reservoir in the grand expanse of Texas County, Oklahoma in the Flood Control Act of 1936, it took the state forty years to start the project.

The North Canadian River exhibited the same traits as most rivers, in that it occasionally flooded its banks. Damming up Optima Lake was a no-brainer... but rivers tend to change with time.

When they entered the construction phase of this reservoir, the North Canadian was still averaging a healthy flow of water. This was in the late-60s. By the time they completed the project in 1978, that flow was less than a quarter of what it was twelve years earlier.

Most place the blame at the feet of farmers. Popularity and farm profits swelled in the 1950s and 60s after the discovery of the Ogallala Aquifer groundwater source. Irrigation around that same time swung from windmill and flood irrigation practices to center pivot irrigation. (those long pipe sprinklers you see in fields across the country)

As the water was pumped out of the ground, less was available on the surface to flow. Here's what it looks like now... If you look closely enough, you can see the tiny spec of water along the dam.


The $46million Optima Lake reservoir never was.

While it was managed for a bit as an outdoor destination complete with camping and hiking, it has been mostly abandoned.

While age is the real killer of everything, a supreme lack of maintenance and the occasional fire really put a damper on this place. It's gotten to the point where people can still visit Optima, but you'll be in for a long walk to experience it.

While the reservoir never filled, there is occasionally a little water in the deepest parts of the bowl, but it remains mostly dry year-round.

There is no fishing, boating, or swimming allowed at Optima Lake, obviously due to the lack of water... and the state has also forbidden all camping too, but some people still get a little use from the failed project.

There are over 3,000 acres of public land around the "lake" that is available for use by hunters each year in addition to almost 5,000 acres of national wildlife refuge.

Those who visit enjoy a rather unique experience, and those who were close to the project overwhelmingly resent how easy it was for the state to abandon it.

If you ever find yourself in the middle of No Man's Land, it's worth dropping by just to say you've been there.

15 More Amazing Southwest Oklahoma Hole-In-The-Wall Eats

It's far too easy to be lulled into thinking the same old chain restaurants are the "good" places to eat across Southwest Oklahoma. You won't find a single franchise on this list. It's all locally owned, locally run, sometimes a little run down, but you'll agree the meals are outstanding when you walk away with a belly full of the good stuff.

In no particular order, here are another fifteen amazing local Southwest Oklahoma eats, and be sure to check out the O.G. 15 Amazing SWOK Hole-In-The-Wall Eats right here when you're done...

Gallery Credit: Kelso

Oklahoma Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dive's Guy Fieri Raved About On TV

We all know Guy Fieri is the self-proclaimed Mayor of Flavortown, and as such, we generally trust his discerning palate to guide us to the best food any place has to offer. At least the places he tends to go often offer up some really good eats, and in looking at this list, having eaten at most of these places a handful of times, he's not wrong. Here are the Oklahoma original restaurants that have been featured on Triple-D.

Gallery Credit: Kelso

Oklahoma's Historical Vintage Theaters

Some theaters show movies, some feature live entertainment, and a few theaters even rent out for events like personal weddings... There are a handful of Oklahoma theaters that flip-flop offering service for all of the above. Either/or, here's a quick list of Oklahoma's most exciting historical and vintage theaters still in operation to this day.

Gallery Credit: Kelso

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