Cedar Lake Campgrounds, Ouachita Nat’l Forest, OK

Charlene at Sandy Beach
Charlene at Sandy Beach Campground, Cedar Lake, Ouachita National Forest, OK

CAMPGROUND NAMES: Sandy Beach where I stayed, plus mentions of the nearby campgrounds: Shady Lane, North Shore and two overflow camping areas: Lower Overflow and Upper Overflow. Note: Literature available about the area is confusing or absent. Apart from a map of the area I did not find documentation from the Forest Service that lists all three campgrounds (Sandy Beach, Shady Lane, North Shore) or the overflow areas. I only found mention of all three campgrounds on Recreation.gov
Note: At the time of this writing the Recreation.gov information is wrong where it states the Sandy Beach campsites have electricity only. They also have water. Their info is also partially wrong where it says Shady Lane sites have sewer. Some do, some don’t.

Essentially there are three campgrounds around Cedar Lake, and two less developed overflow areas. When it comes to the overflow areas I didn’t find those mentioned in any literature anywhere. There is also an Equestrian Campground close to Cedar Lake which I did not visit and about which I’ll not comment other than to say it is accessed via a road at the entry to Sandy Beach Campground.

Fishing Pier, Cedar Lake
Fishing pier, Cedar Lake, Sandy Beach Campground, Ouachita National Forest, OK.

LOCATION: Ouachita National Forest, Eastern Oklahoma
SEASONAL: I don’t think so. From what I can tell they are open year round.
RATES: From $6 in the Overflow areas to $25 for full hookups. Interagency Pass holders receive a discount but it may not be 50% in all cases. I saw many sites marked “$15 GA $10” where I believe GA means Golden Access. It’s my understanding that the USFS discounts the basic camping fee by 50% but regards hookups as extras which are not discounted, or some such thing.
RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED: Yes via Recreation.gov
HOSTED: Yes, but not the Overflow areas
FOREST SERVICE PHONE: (501) 321-5202
Sandy Beach: N 34.77716, W 094.69710
Shady Lane; I don’t have GPS coordinates for this campground but you’ll pass it on your right maybe 100 yards before reaching Sandy Beach
North Shore: N 34.78141, W 094.69247
Lower Overflow: N 34.77371, W 094.69007
Upper Overflow: N 34.77677, W 094.69120

Cedar Lake Map
This map shows the campgrounds, parking, dump stations, etc. around Cedar Lake in the Oauchita National Forest in Oklahoma.

ACCESS: Paved roads to and within the campgrounds except for one small, tight loop in the north Shore Campground. Overflow areas are grass and dirt, roads and campsites. I believe all three campgrounds have handicap accessible sites and restrooms but please double check as my memory is a little foggy on this point.
SITES: I don’t know how many all told, but Recreation.gov seems to indicate 62 with at least some hookups. I don’t think they are including the overflow areas.
SURFACING: Mostly asphalt, except the overflows and one small loop at North Shore
PULL THRU: Not many, if any. None at Sandy Beach as I recall.
MAXIMUM RIG SIZE: Many sites are small, others can handle pretty good size rigs. Recreation.gov lists sizes and I saw some 50′ and larger.
LEVELNESS: Sandy Beach and Shady Lane have some fairly level sites. Not so much at North Shore if I recall
SHADE: Yes, depending on the site. North Shore has the most shade but it doesn’t have hookups.
SPACING: From fairly close to moderately distant
TENT PADS: There are areas to put up tents in some sites
PETS: On leash

HOOKUPS: Shady Lane has some full hookups, some water and electricity. Sandy Beach has water and electricity. North Shore has no hookups. No hookups at the overflow areas
DUMP STATION: Yes. There are two between the three campgrounds (see map)
ELECTRICAL QUALITY: 126 volts, 60 Hz, (Sandy Beach) no faults (As indicated by my Progressive Industries Power Management System, Model EMS-PT30C.)
WATER PRESSURE: 40-45 PSI which is pretty good

Large Overflow Site
This large overflow site was, if I recall correctly, in the Lower Overflow area near north shore campground. It was the largest of the overflow campsites.

AT&T iPhone 5s without Wilson Mobile 4G booster:
No Service at Sandy Beach which is in a depression. Find a hilltop nearby and you may be able to make calls. Don’t count on data service

AT&T iPhone 5s with Wilson Mobile 4G booster:
See notes in previous paragraph

Verizon iPad Air without Wilson Mobile 4G booster:
Service at Sandy Beach was iffy without my booster.

Verizon iPad Air with Wilson Mobile 4G booster:
I was usually able to access data at pretty decent rates

Over-the-air: 2 channels
Cable: No
WiFi: No

RESTROOM RATING: Sandy Beach: Fail, if for no other reason than there was no hand soap or warm water (I assign a Pass or Fail rating based on many considerations including: cleanliness, usability, hot water availability, hand soap availability, ease or difficulty it is to use the toilet paper, condition of fixtures, if using the restroom is a pleasant or unpleasant experience, etc.)
SHOWERS: Yes, at Sandy Beach. I don’t know about the others.
SHOWER RATING: Fail (Sandy Beach) (I evaluate showers in a similar fashion to restrooms. See above.) The water wasn’t hot enough and they had shower heads mounted on the wall that pointed almost straight down making it difficult to wet your head without smashing it into the wall. What idiots design these things? Sometimes I think that somebody should take them out back and beat them senseless. Morons! Either that or bureaucrats that don’t care or don’t know any better. Maybe all three.
RECYCLING: I don’t think so

BUGS: Not much bug activity when I was there in late March

Campsite in Flash Flood Zone
Campsites at Shady Lane Campground at Cedar Lake are in a Flash Flood Zone!?! What? Who’s idea was that?

Gas: That would probably be Hodgen or Heavener
Dump: At the campgrounds
Propane: According to AllStays there  isn’t any nearby, But I have otherwise been informed that Hodgen Butane in Hodgen has propane.
Groceries: Probably Heavener
RV Parks: There is Talking Trees RV Campground in Hodgen; Big Cedar RV and Cabins also listed as Hodgen, but the two are quite a distance from each other. (Source: AllStays)

The route I was taking was from the Imperial Dam LTVA near Yuma toward Tennessee, a state I had not yet visited. I chose a route of secondary roads that would keep me off the Interstates and take me through the countryside. This was true through Arizona, New Mexico, and the panhandle of Texas. All of these places have some beautiful country including the mountains of Arizona and the gorgeous orangy-red soil of northern Texas. I also followed a secondary-roads route through another state I’d not yet been to, Oklahoma. This route was south of I-40  taking me through the Ouachita National Forest where I stayed at Sandy Beach Campground after looking also at North Shore and Shady Lane–all three campgrounds are at Cedar Lake.

North Shore has a more forested feel to it but it lacks hookups of any kind. Actually, there is one site to the west of the more southerly restroom which has a 30 amp receptacle on a pole that looks like a telephone pole but I’m not sure this is meant for campers. There is no accessible circuit breaker. The campground host did point it out to me, however, and said it was OK to use. There is a small loop at North Shore that is unpaved, with a narrow dirt road that big rigs may have trouble with. It’s easy to jump out and walk it to reconnoiter in a minute or so.

Shady Lane has some sites with full hookups: water, electricity and sewer. Some sites do not have sewer but a dump station is right outside the campground. Some, if not all of the sites at Shady Lane are marked with signage warning that the site is in a flash flood area. I question the wisdom of building a campground in such a location. The second night of my stay at Sandy Beach brought with it sever thunderstorm warnings and I felt compelled to walk over to Shady Lane to let the one camper that was there know about the forecast. He already knew and elected to stay.

Sandy Beach from North Shore
in this shot you can see Sandy Beach from North Shore.

Sandy Beach is the smallest of the campgrounds. Several sites are close to the water’s edge. Sites at Sandy Beach are paved and have water and electricity. 50, 30 and 20 amp if I recall correctly. There was room for my 33′ rig with maybe as much room left over in the site I occupied. Others may not be as large. The Recreation.gov site has site size info.

All campgrounds have the feel of being in the forest but North Shore has more of that feel than the others.

Besides the three campgrounds there are two overflow areas (see above for GPS coordinates). They were not marked. Each has about 10 camping areas. The gate to the Upper Overflow was closed and locked with signage saying the campground was closed. The Lower Overflow was open and one rig was using a site within it. I walked both Overflow areas. These are more primitive. There are no hookups. They are unlit. They each have a water spigot or two and a vault toilet. The roads through each, if you wish to call them roads, are grassy and dirt. These areas, apart from the fact that they have water and toilets remind me of areas in which I have boondocked before. I recommend walking these areas before going in with a vehicle. Signage at the Lower Overflow indicated a fee should be paid but there was no indication as to how much and no place to pay it. I spoke with a Forest Service employee who said the fee was $6 and it could be paid at the North Shore Campground which was just up the road. I presume that the fee would be $3 with an Interagency Pass of one flavor or another.

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6 thoughts on “Cedar Lake Campgrounds, Ouachita Nat’l Forest, OK”

  1. Thank you! Planning a “Fall Folliage” trip here in a couple week, and found this very helpful. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this write-up! I have been pulling my hair out trying to make sense of the spotty, disjointed, and sometimes just plain incorrect info that’s available on the Cedar Lake campgrounds. The information you provide here is greatly appreciated!

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