While offices are closed to the public, all wildlife management areas, fishing lakes and shooting ranges of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with all Oklahoma state parks day-use and RV/tent camping areas, remain open for public use at this time. People wanting to get outdoors during the coronavirus health crisis are urged to do so while adhering to the safety guidelines issued by federal (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html), state (https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/) and local governments.
However, areas not owned by the Wildlife Department might be temporarily closed to the public at the discretion of the agency in charge of those areas. These areas might include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties, U.S. Forest Service areas, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sites and municipal parks and reservoirs. People planning to visit outdoor areas are urged to contact the agency in charge of the area to find out if it is open for public use.
“The Wildlife Department is still welcoming our constituents to visit our lakes and wildlife areas, and enjoy Oklahoma’s great outdoors. There’s good fishing now, hiking, bird-watching opportunities — all great ways to get into the fresh air and sunshine, and enjoy some relaxation while practicing social distancing,” said J.D. Strong, director of the Wildlife Department.
While the outdoors are always open, it is also important for everyone to follow the health recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes social distancing; a good way to comply is to stay at least a fishing rod’s length away from others.
In his executive order issued Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said residents 65 and older and people of any age with underlying medical conditions should stay in their residence except when working in a critical infrastructure sector or when they must conduct essential errands. He also prohibited social gatherings of more than 10 people.
To learn more about the status of outdoor areas, here are some online resources:
ODWC fishing lakes: https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/wheretofish?qt-where_to_fish=5#qt-where_to_fish.
Oklahoma state parks: https://www.travelok.com/state-parks. Lodges, nature centers, group camps/dining halls and community buildings are closed through April 15.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: https://www.swt.usace.army.mil/Park-and-Campground-Closures/. At some Corps reservoirs, parks and camping sites are closed but boat ramps remain open.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: https://www.usbr.gov/gp/recreation/oklahoma_recreation.html.
U.S. Forest Service: https://www.fs.usda.gov/. Recreation areas in Ouachita National Forest have been temporarily closed.
Many smaller parks and lakes are controlled by local cities and towns. Check with municipal authorities for the closure status of those areas.
People who visit Wildlife Department areas are reminded that normal usage regulations remain in effect. Some WMAs are closed to all non-hunting activities during spring turkey hunting seasons that begin April 4 (for youths) and run through May 6. For specific area regulations, consult the current Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide found online at wildlifedepartment.com, on the free Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app for Apple or Android devices, or in print across the state wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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