Can You Camp on the Islands at Lake Texoma?

The first thing that comes to mind is lake safety and personal responsibility. The United States Government operates Lake Texoma through the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). I spoke with several officials about this topic, and this is what I found:

No, you cannot legally camp on the islands in Lake Texoma. The islands are the property of the U.S. government. They were a Native American burial ground, as were many areas around and near the Red River of the South, its tributaries, and lakes spawned by it that have disappeared.

There were human bones found on the islands back in 1993 that date back to at least 700 years ago. We do not know if the USACE in 1941 knew that it had a rich history of the Caddoan Mississippi culture when they began digging out our Lake Texoma. Every manmade lake in Texas came about for flood control purposes. We have tons of rivers and waterways in Texas, but we only have one natural lake in Texas that we share today with the state of Louisiana, Caddo Lake.

The human remains on the Lake Texoma islands may have been unearthed by flooding in 1993. The University of Oklahoma (OU) was put in charge of curating the bones found on an undisclosed Lake Texoma island in 1993, and the USACE directed the excavation of the remains. At that time, they found the remains of eight humans, but thought that there might be as many as 20 human remains.

This is a difficult story to follow up on because OU, the USACE, and the Indian Nations have never made the details of this discovery public. The Caddo Nation was a loose federation of several Indian tribes. The Caddos have inhabited Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas since as early 200 B.C. The remains found on the undisclosed Lake Texoma island could be of Caddo or Wichita origin.

Federal law dictates that when Indian remains are found on federal property, the likely tribes to which they belonged must be notified. Those tribes have to make a decision whether the remains are to be reburied or sent to a museum. It has never been disclosed whether any Native American tribe claimed the remains found on the undisclosed island in Lake Texoma.

The Law and the Islands

The islands are the property of the of Oklahoma, and the Marshall County Sheriff's office is the law enforcement entity.  The Tulsa District office of the USACE in Denison, which operates and manages most of Lake Texoma, told me that it is illegal to camp on the islands in Lake Texoma.

I talked to a Tulsa District USACE ranger this week, and he said he could not tell me how much the fines are if you camp on the islands and are charged with illegally camping on them for a few reasons. That ranger explained why to me with a serious demeanor.

The first reason is that a less expensive fine will not deter camping on the islands. But if they find illegal activity that is more than only camping, those fines could be much more expensive, and result in incarceration. The second reason is that the USACE and Oklahoma does not know if all of the remains of the Native Americans have been recovered.

People Camp on the Lake Texoma Islands

Despite the law, people have been camping on the islands for years. Usually no one is fined or goes to jail for camping on the islands. It is still illegal to camp on the islands in Lake Texoma. Not only is Lake Texoma known as the Striped Bass Fishing Playground of the Southwest, Lake Texoma is also known as a party lake.

Big brother is not watching you on the islands. The U.S. Coast Guard employs its auxiliary members to patrol Lake Texoma along with the Texas and Oklahoma game wardens, Marshall County, Oklahoma sheriffs,  and state troopers. The auxiliary members have no law enforcement authority, but they can exercise the act of calling the correct law enforcement authorities. Please exercise good judgment, and do not camp on the islands or drink alcohol while driving a boat.

Lake Texoma is running a bit full this year of 2021, so the dangers of the water are also a bit higher than usual. You can receive a BUI/BWI (boating while under the influence or intoxicated), which holds the same penalties as driving while intoxicated. You will lose your driver’s license, have to attend classes, victim impact lectures, and report to a probation officer while spending an average amount of $17,000 for your first offense.

From Grayson County attorney Micah Belden:

Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is a criminal offense of the same level as DWI under Texas Law with punishment and collateral consequences the same or very similar to DWI. Grayson County is a boating while intoxicated hot-spot due to Lake Texoma, so the highways of Grayson County, Texas BWI on Texas Lakes – particularly Sherman and Denison, are hunting grounds for game wardens and troopers.

So, Happy Boating! Please have a designated captain for your boating pleasures. Respect the islands as an ancient Native American burial ground, and do not get so drunk that you have to spend the night on the islands.

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Lake Texoma Weather Forecast


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 51

Friday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 35



Hi: 61

Saturday Night


Lo: 39


Mostly Sunny

Hi: 63

Sunday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 46


Chance Rain Showers

Hi: 58

Monday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 49

Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 1/28: 615.91 (-1.09)

Lake Texoma

Fishing Report from TPWD (Jan. 26)

GOOD. Water lightly stained; 45-48 degrees; 1.08 feet low. Striped bass are good some days and great others. Due to the cooler water temperatures best success comes from dead sticking using pink and clear five-inch flukes with one ounce jig heads. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors. Striped bass are good in 40-65 feet of water deadsticking with flukes and one ounce jig heads, or drifting main lake flats to catch those suspended in 35-50 feet of water. Catfish are slow, patience and anchor fishing with fresh cut shad or perch in 70 feet of water can bring some in the boat. No report of crappie, other than people are on the lake catching them. Report by Trey Franklin, Tight Lines Guide Service.

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