A Local’s Guide to Visiting Lake Thunderbird State Park

Lake Thunderbird State Park is situated around a large artificial lake, which serves as a reservoir for the municipalities of Norman, Del City, and Midwest City. The park provides an array of water-related activities and recreational options for visitors looking to escape urban life and immerse themselves in nature.

Get our free ebook guide to the best things to do in Norman and OKC. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more! Click here to request the guide.

Lake Thunderbird

About Lake Thunderbird State Park & Discovery Cove Nature Center

Encompassing nearly 2,000 acres in Cleveland County, Lake Thunderbird State Park is positioned to the east of Downtown Norman on State Highway 9. The park provides access to the vast Lake Thunderbird and a host of outdoor activities.

Perfect for family excursions, the park offers numerous recreational options, such as camping, fishing, boating, biking, horseback riding on specific trails, and archery hunting in designated areas. It’s an ideal destination for those wishing to bask in the peace and excitement of nature close to Norman OK.

The park boasts facilities like two marinas — Calypso Cove Marina and Little River Marina — nine boat ramps, two sandy swim beaches, and extensive RV parking with more than 200 sites, including 30 sites with full hookups. Additional amenities include restrooms, playgrounds, picnic shelters, primitive campsites, and a seasonal restaurant — all available to visitors at Lake Thunderbird State Park.

NOTE: The Discovery Cove Nature Center within Lake Thunderbird State Park is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The Nature Center remains closed from Sunday to Tuesday.

10359496 10152859940577599 4289948483238146296 n
Photo copyright by Mark Burgess valleyphotosok.com and used with permission.

Things to Do at Lake Thunderbird State Park

Adventure awaits against a backdrop of Oklahoma’s natural beauty at Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman. Discover the great outdoors and engage with nature with these park activities.

Watch Eagles

Situated within the winter migration path of bald eagles, the state park offers sightings of these majestic birds from December to February. For an enhanced experience, visitors can embark on a guided eagle tour from the Crow’s Secret Nature Center.

Look for the Lake Monster

Although the reality of a lake monster remains a mystery, there’s speculation about a freshwater octopus residing in this man-made lake. Should you spot it, your footage would surely be of interest to Animal Planet!

Bike the Lake Thunderbird Trails

The trails that encircle Lake Thunderbird are perfect for cycling enthusiasts. With its mountain biking paths featuring rolling hills, Lake Thunderbird State Park offers a refreshing variation from the flat terrain of Central Oklahoma. Biking allows you to explore the park from a fresh perspective and traverse more terrain within the timeframe of a conventional hike.

Fish in Lake Thunderbird

Lake Thunderbird is an ideal location for anglers to cast their lines and enjoy a day of fishing. Abundant with a variety of fish — such as large-mouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, white bass, and saugeye — the lake promises a rewarding fishing experience. We always look forward to hearing the fishing stories our guests bring back from their aquatic adventures.

Go Boating on Lake Thunderbird

At Lake Thunderbird State Park, boating enthusiasts of all skill levels will find all they need for a memorable day on the water. Equipped with two marinas and a boathouse, the park offers a fleet of watercraft primed for adventure. You have the opportunity to learn sailing, join official races, or experience the thrill of a regatta.

Hiking on the Trails

Hitting the hiking trails is an excellent choice for those looking to stretch their legs and familiarize themselves with the state park. As you traverse the paths, you’ll be treated to stunning lake vistas and encounters with local wildlife. If you time your hike just right, you may be rewarded with a breathtaking sunset.

Ride the Equestrian Trails

The Discovery Cove Nature Center and horseback riding paths at Lake Thunderbird State Park are situated in the Clear Bay section. These equestrian trails — open from dawn to dusk Wednesday through Sunday — span 4 miles and include 12 challenges for riders and their steeds to navigate.

More Things to Do Near Lake Thunderbird State Park

Since Lake Thunderbird State Park is just a 20-minute drive east of downtown, you’ll find more things to do in Norman OK. Here are just a few examples to get you started.

National Weather Center

The National Weather Center at The University of Oklahoma is a hub of meteorological research, housing a collaboration of federal, state, and academic organizations. It offers cutting-edge forecasts and studies severe weather phenomena, providing educational tours that showcase its role in advancing meteorological science. Plus, guests can immerse themselves in a tornado simulator, get up close with a T-28 storm chaser aircraft, and examine a weather research radar — along with other engaging exhibits.

Sooner Theatre

Established in 1929, the Sooner Theatre was a pioneer in the region for screening “talkies” and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it serves as a vibrant venue for a variety of events throughout the year — such as concerts, dance performances, and musical theater productions.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

At the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, visitors are treated to an enthralling journey through 4 billion years of Oklahoma’s history. The museum is home to the world’s largest Apatosaurus skeleton and the biggest Pentaceratops skull — along with a remarkable collection of dinosaur displays.

The exhibits also include colossal prehistoric insects, ancient marine life, and mammals. Moreover, the museum presents a limestone cave exhibit and Native American artifacts, offering an extensive insight into the area’s rich natural and cultural heritage.

Downtown Norman Main Street

Visiting Main Street in Downtown Norman offers a charming blend of local culture, history, and modern amenities. This vibrant area is the heart of the city, where visitors can enjoy an array of boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants serving diverse cuisine.

The downtown district frequently hosts community events, art walks, and live music, creating a lively atmosphere for both locals and tourists. And, architectural enthusiasts will appreciate the historic buildings that line the streets, adding to the district’s unique character.

Restaurants Near Lake Thunderbird State Park

When it’s time for a bite, you’ll find tons of restaurants in Norman OK. If you don’t want to take a picnic, check out one of these eateries within a short drive of Lake Thunderbird State Park.

Ray’s BBQ

Ray’s BBQ, established by ex-New York Jets safety Darrol Ray, is a laid-back dining spot run by his family. The menu features all the barbecue favorites like chopped pork, brisket, and St. Louis-style ribs. Guests might see Ray mingling and engaging with diners, adding a personal touch to the restaurant’s friendly ambiance.

Benvenuti’s Ristorante

At Benvenuti’s Ristorante, Chef Anthony Compagni infuses traditional Italian dishes with a contemporary flair, promising a culinary adventure for your palate. The restaurant takes pride in its daily ritual of hand-making fresh pasta and crafting desserts from scratch.

With a selection of over 250 wines, Benvenuti’s boasts an impressive wine inventory that rivals many in the Midwest. Additionally, the restaurant accommodates various dietary needs with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options available upon request.

Native Spirits Winery

A family operation, Native Spirits Winery crafts distinctive Oklahoma wines using premium grapes gathered globally to suit every taste preference. Guests are invited to meander through the vineyards and taste the winery’s diverse selection. Moreover, the winery is a hub for events, featuring Wine Night Out accompanied by local music every Friday.

(405) Brewing Co.

Conceived by a pair of friends with a passion for beer, (405) Brewing Co. is a craft brewery and taproom that focuses on creating distinctive brews — from rich stouts to refreshing ales. The brewery prides itself on experimenting with innovative brewing methods and mixed fermentation processes, resulting in an eclectic flavor spectrum. It’s the perfect place to gather with friends and savor a variety of tasty beers.

garden gate room header montford inn norman oklahoma bed and breakfast

Relax at Our Norman OK Bed and Breakfast Near Lake Thunderbird State Park

After a day exploring the trails on foot or by horse, or even after scouting for the fabled lake monster, unwinding is essential. Our bed and breakfast in Norman OK provides the perfect retreat with luxurious whirlpool tubs and exceptionally comfortable beds to soothe your muscles, setting the stage for a restful night.

Should your day have included eagle watching, you might appreciate a chance to warm up. At the Montford Inn, cozy up by one of our inviting fireplaces. Come morning, our friendly staff will serve a delicious breakfast, and we’re eager to hear about your escapades as we share a morning coffee.

When you set your travel dates, check out our rooms and suites for your Norman OK getaway.