This Is Why Oklahoma Lakes Are So Dirty
Every year, as new people come into Lawton and start exploring, the topic of water colors usually comes up after that first initial exploration of the lakes. They range anywhere from brownish/greenish to straight up chocolate milk. I'll admit, in my travels across this country I've seen beautiful lakes in prime condition with pure deep blue and crystal clear waters, but you won't find that in many places in Oklahoma, and it's all told in the history of the Oklahoma lakes.
I don't think it's common knowledge but here's a fun fact... There is not a single naturally occurring body of water within the borders of this state. Historically, Oklahoma is a place of rivers. There are rivers spread all across every corner of this state. Oklahoma is even home to the largest inland seaport in America up by Tulsa. The lakes you see and hear about are all man made. Every single one. Now sure, there are a handful of historic naturally occurring "oxbow" lakes in the rare places they pop up, but those aren't lakes and they're usually very small. Like, you could walk across them small. The man made big bodies of water and the way they were made are the reason the lake waters here are so dirty.
If you dug yourself a hole in the backyard and filled it with water, would you expect it to be clear or blue in color? No. You'd be making yourself a big ole mud puddle. That's exactly how the lakes in Oklahoma were created. Planners sought out the perfect locations to build dams on our rivers to create reservoirs starting with Talawanda Lake No. 1 outside of McAlester way back in 1902. This trend continued slowly until the 1930's depression and The New Deal created the Public Works Administration and put Oklahoman's back to work building dams and making new lakes. As the lands fill up with water, it's only natural that what remains is mostly big mud puddles... but that's not the truth in every case.
With as many chocolate milk and dirty water lakes that we have in this state, we also have a bunch of crystal clear lakes in areas where it's less dirt on the bottom and more rock and sand. For instance, even though Lake Lawtonka remains leaning on the dirty side, Lake Elmer Thomas is often so clear people scuba dive there. Lake Murray just South of Ardmore sits in the top spot on the list of most beautiful lakes in Oklahoma. With stunning water clarity, it's a hot spot for people looking to have summer fun. Broken Bow Lake, Eucha, Sooner, Dripping Springs, Arbuckle, etc... all feature some of the clearest waters you could hope to find on a trip to a lake. If you hop off the rented houseboat to snorkel around Lake Tenkiller, there are places where you can see twenty to thirty feet underwater. It's just so rocky and sandy there, there's no sediment to stir up and dirty the water.
All the same, dirty lakes like Lawtonka usually clear up and get really pretty in times of drought. Without the rushing waters of the watershed bringing dirt into it, that sediment sinks and settles over time. That's why Lawtonka is so picturesque by the time winter comes around.
If you're an outdoors sportsman, keep in mind... the clearer the water is, the harder it is to catch fish. Fish have great vision underwater, and the easier it is to see your bait, the more likely they'll pass on it. If you didn't know that, now you do. That's why the big professional bass tournaments usually take place on dirty lakes, and why the biggest fish are almost always caught in the nastiest chocolate milk colored water.