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Lake Jed Johnson: Recreational Guide

A true 'hidden gem', Lake Jed Johnson is the third largest reservoir in the refuge and a haven for recreational enthusiasts. 
Lake Jed Johnson and its Tower

Situated in the heart of the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma, Lake Jed Johnson offers a breathtaking tableau of natural beauty and rich history. 

A true ‘hidden gem’, this is the third largest reservoir among the thirteen in the refuge and a haven for recreational enthusiasts. 

Rated highly by its visitors, it’s located approximately 21 miles from Lawton, the fourth-largest city in the state.

Sunny view of Lake Jed Johnson Tower at Oklahoma
Source: dreamstime

History of Lake Jed Johnson 

Delving into the annals of Lake Jed Johnson’s history, the lake is named after the eponymous Jed Johnson (1888–1963). 

The reservoir was brought into existence in 1940, with the construction of the concrete Jed Johnson Dam across the Blue Beaver Creek in Comanche County, Oklahoma. 

Spanning a surface area of 57.5 acres, the lake’s primary purpose is the preservation of wildlife habitat. 

Moreover, the Civilian Conservation Corps has played a crucial role in constructing infrastructures around the area in 1941, significantly contributing to the lake’s historical context.

Lake Jed Johnson ruins in Oklahoma
Source: dreamstime

Getting to Lake Jed Johnson 

To reach Lake Jed Johnson from Lawton, take Route 49 past Medicine Park.

The first turn toward the lake will take you to the Jed Johnson Tower, and the second to the dam and the boat ramp.

Both turn-offs are clearly marked with brown recreational signs.

Recreation at the Lake 

Beautiful Lake Jed Johnson at Oklahoma
Source: dreamstime

The pristine surroundings of the lake provide numerous recreational options for visitors. 

Kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking are the most popular activities at the lake.

Although swimming is prohibited in Lake Jed Johnson, paddleboarding is allowed.

Fishing is permitted, with hand-powered boats or boats shorter than 14 feet equipped with trolling motors.

The most common catches at the lake are largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and smallmouth bass.

Texas Longhorn bull at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma
Source: dreamstime

Nature enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the area surrounding Lake Jed Johnson is teeming with wildlife such as deer, elk, Longhorn cattle, and bison

The area serves as a wildlife photographer’s paradise and offers numerous opportunities for hiking and hunting as well.

Dog owners will be thrilled to know that the lake area is pet-friendly. 

Jed Johnson Tower and Trail 

Woman walking towards the Lake Jed Johnson Tower at Oklahoma
Source: dreamstime

Jed Johnson Trail is a 1-mile out-and-back trail used for hiking, walking, and trail running. 

The trail’s total elevation gain is a manageable 68 feet, making it accessible for people of all fitness levels.

Adding to the allure of Lake Jed Johnson is the historic Jed Johnson Tower. 

A former fire watch station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941, the tower now sits abandoned due to structural concerns. 

While it isn’t open to visitors, the tower adds an air of historical significance to the landscape and can be accessed via the Jed Johnson Trail.

The trail splits off in several directions, but each one ultimately leads you to the tower. 

Side trails meander off from the tower towards the lake and further into the backcountry. 

Best Time to Visit 

When it comes to the best time to visit, the lake is accessible and enjoyable year-round, with each season offering its own unique experience. 

However, the milder weather of the spring and fall seasons is often preferred by outdoor enthusiasts for activities such as boating, fishing, and hiking.

Lizard in Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Refuge
Source: dreamstime

Access Areas 

For those planning to spend the day at Lake Jed Johnson, the various access areas serve as a boon. 

The lake can be accessed by a boat ramp near the dam, providing an easy entry point for those looking to kayak or fish. 

Several trailheads allow hikers to explore the area with ease.

Nearby Attractions 

While the natural allure of Lake Jed Johnson is undeniably its main attraction, the surrounding area is also rich in attractions worth exploring. 

The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge offers a plethora of sights and activities. 

In Lawton or other nearby towns, visitors will find a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and other facilities.

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