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In the 1890’s, the Ballew family settled on the gentle, crystal clear Illinois River. The location of the homestead was under a bluff that spanned over 200 feet high. In the early 1890’s the Ballew family operated the Ballew Brothers Store which supplied the local families with everything from guns, to general household goods, to wagons, and even custom built caskets. With the coming of the post office in 1896, which was operated from the home of Jack Cookson, the Cookson Indian Territory address was born. In 1947 the Corps of Engineers began building a dam across the Illinois River, creating Tenkiller Lake. All of the affected structures that could be moved were relocated to higher ground. Many of the structures that were moved are still being used today. What you may know as the Cookson General Store is the original store that was located on the river and operated by the George Stratton family. The structures that could not be moved are now covered by beautiful Tenkiller Lake.

Today, Cookson is a hub of activity. Located on the east side of the lake, Cookson has the only public airport available on the lakeshore. There is a 2,600-foot runway with an attendant always on duty to serve flying visitors to the lake area. Cookson is also home to many businesses to serve visitors. From restaurants to convenience stores, dive shops to lodging, Cookson is here to meet your needs.


Located 7 miles south of Tenkiller Lake, Gore serves as a gateway to the lake area for visitors arriving from the south and west. It is a growing community that has more than doubled its incorporated size in the last three to five years. Known as the "Trout Capitol of Oklahoma", Gore is within one mile of the lower Illinois River, which offers year-round trout fishing. Private and public campgrounds are located on the river just outside of town. Record striped bass are also frequently caught in this stretch of the lower Illinois River. In 1996, a new record was set with a 47 pound 8 ounce striped bass being caught here.

Gore maintains two city parks for the use and enjoyment of lake area residents and visitors. Ray Fine Park, located on the north edge of Gore, provides a playground, tennis and basketball courts, picnic tables, group shelters, and modern toilets.

Summers Landing Park, located just south of Gore on the Arkansas River, provides free overnight camping and boat launching facilities.

Keys is located just south of Tahlequah on Highway 82. Travelers from the north pass through Keys on their way to Tenkiller Lake. Keys is a growing community with restaurants, convenience stores, Jimmy Houston’s Outdoor Store, boat repair and sales facilities, a bank and ATM - everything a visitor might need.


Sallisaw, county seat of Sequoyah County, is located at the edge of the famous Cookson Hills to the north and the navigation channel of the Arkansas River to the south. Its name is from the French "salaisiau" meaning "salt provision." Indians, early settlers, explorers and trappers were familiar with the natural salt deposits found by many nearby streams.

Today Sallisaw is an expanding center for commerce and tourism. With a lake for fishing and water sports, drives to historical landmarks, horse racing at Blue Ribbon Downs, Oklahoma’s first pari-mutual track, state parks for camping and hiking, golf, tennis (or just relaxing) all begin and end at Sallisaw.

For specific information on Sallisaw: Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 252 (111 North Elm), Sallisaw, OK 74955
(918) 775-2558

Set in the colorful Cookson Hills only minutes away from the Illinois River and Tenkiller Lake, Tahlequah is a mecca for visitors who enjoy outdoor recreation and a sample of the areas rich Indian heritage. Tahlequah was founded by the Cherokees more than 150 years ago as the end of the "Trail of Tears". Today, historic Cherokee buildings blend beautifully into its friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Tahlequah continues to be the capitol of the Cherokee Nation and is also home to Northeastern State University. You can learn more about all that Tahlequah offers by visiting the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, 123 E. Delaware, Tahlequah, OK 74464 or call (918) 456-3742. Website


Vian is a family town. Friday night means high school football or basketball - the town revolves around Vian High School and its activities. Sunday will find the families of Vian making their way to one of more than twenty-five area churches. And every day of the week offers outstanding recreational facilities that call for fun family times together. Three miles south of Vian is the Sequoyah Wildlife Refuge, winter home to the American Bald Eagle, literally thousands of Canadian and Snow Geese, beautiful whitetail deer and some of the best fishing in Oklahoma.

A town of friendly, caring people, Vian is also a convenient place for family living. Health care comes from medical professionals who are also friends to their patients and still make occasional house calls. Merchants know their customers and are also willing to go the extra step to help. With this attitude, it's no surprise Vian is beginning to grow as new businesses meet the needs of local consumers.

Vian is conveniently located just off I-40 and is one of the gateways to Tenkiller Lake. So, next time you are on your way to the lake, stop and experience hometown Vian.

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