Tahlequah: The Cherokee Capital

Cherokee National Capital Building on Muskogee Ave. in downtown Tahlequah

Tahlequah is a beautiful small city; a jewel nestled in the Cookson Hills between the Illinois River, Fort Gibson Lake and Lake Tenkiller in northeastern Oklahoma. 

When the Cherokee people first began arriving in the area some 200 years ago, they quickly began settling communities in their new homeland. Tahlequah and nearby Park Hill soon became important centers for commerce, news, education and politics among the Cherokees. Tahlequah was ultimately selected as the capital city for the Cherokee Nation. It is the oldest municipality in Oklahoma, having been incorporated by an Act of the Cherokee National Council in 1843, more than 60 years before Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Today, with an estimated population of more than 16,500 permanent residents, Tahlequah has a charming small town feel with big city amenities. Prentice Hall publishers named the city one of the “Best Small Towns in America.” Major employers in the area include Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah City Hospital and Northeastern State University. Tahlequah offers abundant opportunities for year-round entertainment, shopping, outdoor and sporting activities, ancient and present day culture and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. You will notice the influences of Tahlequah’s original people everywhere in the place names, street names and street signs written in the Cherokee syllabary, as well as in artwork, architecture, local businesses, food and entertainment.

Illinois River near Tahlequah for floating, fishing and camping

Some of the area's biggest attractions are recreational, including the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. The Illinois River, which is home to over 60 miles of breathtaking landscapes, is a designated Oklahoma Scenic River. Floating the Illinois is a time-honored tradition. Depending on your preference, you may float by raft, kayak or canoe. For anglers, the Illinois River is also home to more than 72 species of fish. Lake Tenkiller is renowned for boating and fishing activities. Tenkiller is the lake to visit if you're fishing for bass, walleye, crappie or trout! 

Seminary Hall, NSU campus, began originally as the Cherokee National Female Seminary

In 1846, Northeastern State University was founded as the Cherokee National Female Seminary. This historic link to the Cherokee Nation and Indian Territory make Northeastern the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma. The original Seminary was built in Park Hill south of Tahlequah and destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday 1887. On May 7, 1889, the Cherokee National Female Seminary was dedicated north of Tahlequah, where it would continue to provide learning opportunities for young women for 20 years. Seminary Hall is now the historic centerpiece of Northeastern State, and each year on May 7, Descendants of Seminarians gather to observe Seminaries Homecoming in honor of our first students. To learn more about Northeastern State University, please visit NSU's website.

CN Prison Museum

Cherokee Nation offers various cultural sites and attractions that allow visitors to follow in the footsteps of historical Cherokees and walk the paths they traveled more than a century ago, including museums and art galleries. For more information, please check out our cultural tourism site, Visit Cherokee Nation.

General Contact

Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce
123 E Delaware Street
Tahlequah, OK 74464

Phone : 918-456-3742

Visitors' Guides are available online at Tour Tahlequah

The Tahlequah Mainstreet Association hosts events throughout the year. Please visit the Downtown Tahlequah website to find out about upcoming events and activities.