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Arbuckle Project
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Arbuckle Project History - 56 KB (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

The Arbuckle Project regulates flow of Rock Creek, a tributary of the Washita River in south-central Oklahoma. The project furnishes new or supplemental water supplies to Davis and Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and to a major oil refinery near Wynnewood. Sulphur, Oklahoma, also has a project water supply entitlement; however, conveyance facilities have not been constructed to serve that city. The project provides substantial flood control, fish and wildlife, and recreation benefits.

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Arbuckle Dam and Lake of the Arbuckles, are on Rock Creek, about 6 miles southwest of Sulphur, Oklahoma. The regulated flows of Rock Creek are delivered to Davis, Wynnewood, and the oil refinery from the reservoir by the project aqueduct system through 17.9 miles of pipeline and one pumping plant. The regulated flows are also delivered to the Ardmore Industrial Air Park through a pipeline constructed by the city of Ardmore, which plans to construct additional pipelines and treatment facilities for more efficient use of its water allocation. Two small pipelines deliver water from Arbuckle Dam to Dougherty and rural users.

Facility Descriptions
Arbuckle Dam and Reservoir

Arbuckle Dam is an earthfill structure, having a structural height of 150 feet and a crest length of 1,900 feet. The volume of the dam and two dikes near its left abutment is 2,977,800 cubic yards. The spillway consists of a morning-glory concrete inlet, concrete conduit, concrete chute and stilling basin, and an outlet channel which also serves the river outlet works. The river outlet works has a 7.5-foot-diameter upstream conduit, a gate chamber directly beneath the crest of the dam, and control gates that have a maximum design discharge of 2,340 cubic feet per second into a free-flow 9-foot-diameter flat-bottom conduit and stilling basin. A municipal outlet works supplies domestic water. The Lake of the Arbuckles has a total capacity of 108,839 acre-feet at elevation 885.3 and an active conservation capacity of 62,571 acre-feet at elevation 872.0. The surface area of the reservoir is 3,127 acres at elevation 885.3 and 2,346 acres at top of active conservation capacity, elevation 872.0. In compliance with the State of Oklahoma, and for control of water quality in municipal water, it was necessary to construct the Sulphur sewage effluent pumping plant and pipeline as a part of the project facilities to avoid contamination of water in storage at Arbuckle Dam. Before construction of Arbuckle Dam, effluent from the Sulphur sewage disposal plant drained into Rock Creek watershed. The pumping plant and disposal pipeline collect all effluent and convey it about 4 miles to the Dry Sandy Creek watershed. Operation and maintenance of the pumping plant and pipeline is a part of the dam and reservoir operation. The maximum capacity is 4 million gallons per day. The pumping plant is provided with three vertical turbine pumping units of equal rating. A chlorination station is provided for treating the effluent. The pipeline is 18-inch-diameter precast concrete approximately 4 miles long. Appurtenant structures include surge tank, air valves, blowoff structures, vent structures,

Wynnewood Pumping Plant and Pipeline

The Wynnewood Pumping Plant is located just downstream from Arbuckle Dam. The pumps provide municipal water for delivery to the Wynnewood Aqueduct and regulating reservoir. The regulating reservoir is a concrete-lined structure located on the high point of the aqueduct. Conveyance of water downstream of the regulating reservoir is by gravity. Four pumping units are provided at Wynnewood Pumping Plant, with a rated unit capacity of 3.45 cubic feet per second. Each with one unit as a standby, the total capacity is 10.35 cubic feet per second. The pumping head range is 70 to 179 feet, depending on the storage elevation at the dam, The Wynnewood Pumping Plant is unattended. A telemeter receives the water level from the regulating reservoir and automatically starts and stops pumps to maintain a water level in the regulating reservoir adequate to serve the turnout flow control stations. A 17.87-mile pipeline ranging from 10 to 27 inches in diameter conveys municipal water to Wynnewood. A turnout flow control station is provided at each turnout point to Davis, to the refinery, and at the Wynnewood terminal structure. A 580-foot lateral of 16-inch-diameter pipe is provided at the refinery turnout point. Required appurtenant line structures, including a surge tank, air valve structures, manholes, blow-off structures, regulating tanks, and a chlorination plant are provided for the Wynnewood Aqueduct. The water is treated only to the extent necessary to prevent algae and other growths from forming in the pipeline.

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The first non-Indian settlements in the area were scattered trading posts and military posts. Fort Arbuckle was opened near Wildhorse Creek in Murray County in 1851. About 1865, the cattle industry became a factor in settlement of the area. Public lands in the territory were settled rapidly once they were opened to entry. The economy soon changed from the early cattle to predominantly crop-based. A progressive lowering of the water table and deterioration in the quality of water withdrawn from the wells encouraged the local communities to seek supplemental water resources.


The Arbuckle Project area has been the subject of investigations by various Federal, State, and local agencies since the mid-1930's. An inventory of land and water resources needs and problems of the Red River Basin was initiated by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1947. Increased use of municipal and industrial water by the communities in the project area, together with effects of the drought of the 1950's, caused a serious depletion of existing sources of water supplies in the cities and towns. Early in 1956, local interests met with Reclamation representatives concerning potential development of the Arbuckle site. Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation actively supported the Rock Creek Project and urged the Bureau of Reclamation to start investigations immediately. A reconnaissance investigation of the Arbuckle Project was initiated in 1956. Following review, the Southern Oklahoma Development Association adopted the report findings. The Bureau of Reclamation prepared a plan of development in 1961 and completed a definite plan report in 1963, which was revised in 1964.


The Arbuckle Project was authorized by Public Law 87-594, approved August 24, 1962 (76 Stat. 395).


The contract for construction of Arbuckle Dam was awarded June 9, 1964, and was completed June 30, 1966. The contract for construction of the aqueduct and pumping plant was awarded August 27, 1965, and was essentially complete in August 1967. Minor contracts for final completion of construction at Arbuckle Dam and the Wynnewood Aqueduct and Pumping Plant were completed during 1967 and 1968. Operation and maintenance responsibility for the project was turned over to the Arbuckle Master Conservancy District on January 1, 1968.

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Municipal and Industrial Water

The municipal and industrial water needs of Davis, Wynnewood, Sulphur, Dougherty, and Ardmore, Oklahoma., and a large oil refinery near Wynnewood are being served by operation of the completed Arbuckle Project. The Lake of the Arbuckles provides for the future water requirements of project cities and the area industries.

Flood Control

Extensive flood control benefits are expected to accumulate as a result of project development. Early benefits have accrued by detention of flood flows in the Lake of the Arbuckles. After completion of Arbuckle Dam in June 1966, the Lake of the Arbuckles filled to the top of active conservation capacity for the first time on May 12, 1968, and flood control operations began. On October 8, 1970, a heavy rainstorm flooded the city of Sulphur, upstream from the Lake of the Arbuckles. Flood inflow to the reservoir caused the water level to rise more than 12 feet in 8 hours and resulted in the first spill through the uncontrolled morning-glory spillway. Untold damages and possible loss of life were avoided by flood operations at Arbuckle Dam. Inflow to the reservoir following this storm, computed from increases in reservoir volume, exceeded 82,000 cubic feet per second.

The Lake of the Arbuckles (http://www.usbr.gov/dataweb/dams/ok02501.htm) has 36,440 acre feet of capacity assigned to flood control. The Arbuckle Project has provided an accumulated $1,851,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.

Recreation and Fish and Wildlife

The Lake provides significant benefits in fish and wildlife and recreational uses. Located at the confluence of the Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and Rock Creeks, the area presents unusual opportunities, combining recreational use with scenic, scientific, and historical values. The Arbuckle Mountains are the highest part of a large area of Precambrian granites and overlying sedimentary strata that were uplifted and deformed some 300 million years ago. Subsequent erosion has exposed features which make the area an outstanding laboratory for students of geology. The Lake of the Arbuckles is one of the best fishing lakes in Oklahoma for catfish, perch, bass, and crappie. Protective coves are good for trotlines, the water is unusually clear, and trolling is popular. Since the primary need for withdrawal of water from the reservoir is for municipal and industrial water supplies, the lake is not subjected to drastic drawdowns during the summer months. The wildlife area is a habitat for turkey, deer, and small game birds. Hunting is allowed in season. Wildlife management includes over 1,100 acres of land and 60 acres of water surface. The Lake of the Arbuckles has been a very popular recreation area since initial filling of the reservoir. There are 36 miles of shoreline and 2,346 acres of water surface at top of active conservation, elevation 872.0. Land available for recreation adjacent to the reservoir includes some 3,400 acres. Recreation facilities include access roads, parking areas, campgrounds, trailer spaces, picnic areas, shelters, tables, public restrooms, drinking water, boat docks, ramps, and a swimming beach. The National Park Service administers the recreation areas and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation provides wildlife management.

Lake of the Arbuckles was incorporated into the Chickasaw National Recreation Area by Public Law 94-235 in 1976.

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Last updated: Jul 20, 2012