Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

By: John Wesley Phillips

Type: General Entry

Published: March 1, 1995

Updated: August 14, 2015

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is on the Canadian River some thirty miles northeast of Amarillo in Moore, Hutchinson, and Potter counties, in the central Panhandle. It is on the northern edge of the Llano Estacado and is one of the primary prairie parks in the Great Plains. The park comprises 45,000 acres of canyonland and grassland. The lake was called Sanford Reservoir until 1974, when it was renamed for A. A. Meredith, an early promoter of the lake. It was given the status of a national recreation area in 1990. The park headquarters in Fritch is the main contact point for the lake, though information is also available at the Lake Meredith Aquatic and Wildlife Museum in Fritch, at the Sanford-Yake Ranger Station, and, during the summer, at the Alibates Contact Station. Short grasses, including buffalo grass, grama, and sand dropseed, abound on the mesa tops and hillsides, and such tall grasses as Indian grass, switchgrass, and reeds are found in the watered creeks. The geological features of the area are the result of erosion by wind and water. The mesa tops are the result of the Alibates dolomite, a resistant rock layer. Where this has eroded away, hills of various shapes, sometimes resembling artificial mounds, are found. Wildlife-including birds, coyotes, and deer-is common, and raccoons, skunks, and porcupines are regular visitors. The western diamondback and prairie rattlesnakes are the only venomous snakes in the area.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area is the primary recreation area for the Texas Panhandle and surrounding area, with opportunities for boating, fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, off-road vehicle use, and nature study; it is used by some 1½ million visitors annually. The lake is the number-one walleye lake in Texas. It has also served as a source for walleye stocked in other Texas lakes. Other favorite fish include largemouth, smallmouth, and white bass, as well as crappie, bream, and catfish. Hunting occurs year-round, subject to state hunting laws and federal restrictions. Primary game animals include both whitetail and mule deer, turkey, dove, quail, geese, and ducks. Availability of the boat-launching facilities varies with the water level in Lake Meredith; three to seven ramps are dependably accessible. A marina in the Sanford-Yake area provides a year-round launching ramp. Below the dam is the Spring Canyon swimming area and a tract of wetlands that provides opportunities for birders. Other birding opportunities are present all year in the many canyons around the lake. The area birders' checklist lists over 230 species, including the painted bunting, which nests in McBride Canyon. The nearby Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument provides a glimpse of the long prehistory of the area and includes some of the more than 450 archeological sites in the combined parks. The Lake Meredith Aquatic and Wildlife Museum in Fritch provides a close-up view of the local plant and animal life and contains large aquariums that display fish from Lake Meredith. The towns surrounding the lake have museums featuring the history and prehistory of the area.

Gerald Meeks Etchieson, Shoreline Survey at Lake Meredith Recreation Area in the Texas Panhandle (Amarillo, Texas: The Region, 1987).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

John Wesley Phillips, “Lake Meredith National Recreation Area,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995
August 14, 2015