- Associated Press - Sunday, August 24, 2014

LONE WOLF, Okla. (AP) - Despite low water levels at Lake Altus-Lugert due to the prolonged drought, visitor turnout has been good this summer at Quartz Mountain Resort Arts and Conference Center and Nature Park.

Executive Director Terry Mosley said that although the lake’s water level is just below 13 percent, revenues from facilities including the lodge, park and golf course are at least holding to last year’s levels despite the challenges of maintaining a park in the face of drought. He said that Quartz Mountain Resort is operating on a $2.3-2.4 million budget for 2014, similar to 2013, The Lawton Constitution reported.

Mosley said that although visitor traffic is not measured on a “drive-in, drive-out” basis, there has been a notable increase in turnout including overnight stays as temperatures have been well below the 100-degree mark for the most part with some cooldowns thanks to rainstorms during June and July.

“Cool weather has increased our business,” he said. “Tent camping and RV traffic is up from earlier this summer.”

In addition to campsites, the resort also offers cabins and guest rooms.

The cool down and the lifting of the burn ban has also helped business during the July 4 weekend.

While camping is on the upside, Mosley said that some water sports such as boating and water skiing have dropped due to the low lake levels.

Fishing activity at the lake has been marginal, not only due to the low water levels but also because of golden algae blooms that resulted in fish kills. He said the water in the lake is safe and that they are working with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to restock fish in the lake and adjoining North Fork of the Red River.

“We’re optimistic that we can also reintroduce sport fishing at the lake if we can just get the lake level back up,” he said.

Mosley said there is still fishing going on at the lake.

He said fishermen have continuously caught fish throughout the period of low water levels.

Virtually all park facilities are still available and in use and the lake’s water is safe for fishing and water sports.

“The main boat ramp is still in the water and functional,” he said. “And we have a lot of beach - though a bit more than we want now. But the water is great for boating and water skiing.”

Mosley said that other facilities within the park and adjacent to the park entrance provide additional recreational opportunities. Those include the Quartz Mountain Golf Course, an 18-hole course, and the Quartz Mountain Fun Park. Quartz Mountain also has numerous other recreational activities including hiking, biking and rock climbing. He said the lodge and restaurant are busy.

“We’re getting a lot of reunions and meetings at the lodge,” he said. “And we’d like to get some of the business from our Texas Panhandle visitors we’ve lost over the past two years.”

“We’re open and there’s a lot to do here,” he said.

Jerry Christopher, manager of the park and conference center confirmed that lodge business has increased over last year, after this year’s opening following the Oklahoma Arts Institute held there June 14-29.

Christopher said the resort has allocated $250,000 to capital improvements. Those include log replacement and Internet upgrades.

“And we’re doing some Internet marketing of the lodge and other facilities to attract more visitor traffic,” he said “And a lot of people are staying here who didn’t know the park and resort were here, including some from central Oklahoma including Edmond and Yukon.”

Christopher said the lodge’s restaurant recently began offering a seafood buffet on Friday nights and has other specials planned, including one this fall during which frog stew will be served.

“We’re looking to do other restaurant specials,” he said. “And we’re still doing a lot of weddings. Many of them have been held in the Performing Arts Center, which is becoming very popular.”

Charla Lambert, the resort’s sales manager, said the lodge is booking a lot of conventions and other events.

“We’re busy and hopefully we’ll stay that way,” she said.

The Quartz Mountain Nature Center, located within the park, offers visitors a look at the area’s cultural and natural history. The cultural history includes an overview of native peoples nationwide along with the four Indian tribes who once lived on what is now park property - the Kiowas, Wichitas, Cheyennes and Comanches. Visitors can view a diorama of a Kiowa winter camp that included bison hunters.

The Nature Center also includes a history of Lake Altus-Lugert from the construction of the first dam on the North Fork of the Red River to the development of a camp by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression of the 1930s including the construction campgrounds and park trails, to the construction of the first Quartz Mountain Lodge built in the 1950s that was destroyed by fire in 1995, and the current lodge facilities.

The natural history section of the Nature Center includes plants and animals that are native to the park including birds, bees, beavers, raccoons and many others. Many displays of plants and animals can be found in the center, including many that are hands-on to give younger visitors a feel for the area’s plant and animal life.

“A third of our displays are seasonal and change every month,” said Sue Hokanson, park naturalist.

One displays contains mammoth remains found on park property some years ago.

The nature center works with area libraries in presenting programs about plants and animals for their summer reading programs for children. She said the center receives many visits from scouting groups during the fall and spring.

Among the many recent visitors to Quartz Mountain Resort and Nature Park were tourists visiting the United States from Germany. Nicole Grasshoff of Dresden along with her sister and her husband Diana and Marcus Husse of Hanover came to the park during a visit with friends in Vernon, Texas. It was just Grasshoff’s second visit to the park and third to the U.S. Their visit to the Southwest Oklahoma resort/park included a first for them - riding a Sea-Doo jet ski.

Grasshoff said that Oklahoma’s summer of hot and dry conditions with 100-degree-plus temperatures is a contrast from summers in her home country.

“In Germany, the temperature only gets as high as 70 degrees this time of year,” she said. “And we have a lot of rain.”

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Information from: The Lawton Constitution, http://www.swoknews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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