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OKLAHOMA'S ICONIC WATERS: The Chickasaw National Recreation Area attracts 1.5 million visitors a year

A visitor to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur on Wednesday wades across Panther Falls. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

A visitor to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur on Wednesday wades across Panther Falls. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

Looking for a good place to picnic, or find a cool swimming hole for the kids this summer?

The scenic Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, just a 90-minute drive south from Oklahoma City, is a great place to get away for a day.

Many people must feel that way because it attracts 1.5 million visitors each year. Most of them come from southern and central Oklahoma and north Texas and many are repeat visitors.

It is an iconic place in southern Oklahoma, first established as the Sulphur Springs Reservation in 1902. Once described as an oasis in the prairie, more than 30 mineral and fresh water springs existed in the park, and people came there to drink, wade and swim in the cool waters.

The constant 62- to 64-degree water that flows year-round in the park makes a popular swimming destination today during Oklahoma's hot summer months, evident by the crowds there during my brief visit on Wednesday.

There were plenty of kids jumping in swimming holes and wading the creeks, while adults were hiking and biking along the trails.

The area was re-designated as Platt National Park in 1906 and later combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area and renamed the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in 1976.

A narrow road circles the older part of the park, passing by camping and picnic grounds, the Travertine Nature Center, swimming holes, springs and a bison pasture. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been home to a small bison herd since 1920.

The Travertine Nature Center in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is open year-round and offers exhibits including live amphibians, reptiles and birds of prey. Park rangers also lead educational nature programs at the center.

Travertine Creek, joined by Rock Creek, flows through the area. Antelope Springs and Buffalo Springs at the eastern end of the park are the headwaters of Travertine Creek.

A number of other fresh water and mineral springs contribute to Travertine and Rock Creek as they flow through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, dropping in small waterfalls over several ledges.

The Chickasaw National Recreation Area also has a multi-use trail for horseback riding and mountain biking.

Its almost 10,000 acres include Veterans Lake, which has a paved walking and biking trail that circles it, and the 2,300-acre Lake of the Arbuckles, one of the best bass fishing lakes in the state.

The Chickasaw National Recreation Area has campgrounds for RV and tent camping, or if you want luxury, just across the street is the first-class Artesian Hotel which overlooks the park.

Turner Falls also is just a short drive away, another iconic attraction in southern Oklahoma.

Related Photos
<p>Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur was a popular swimming hole on Wednesday. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] </p>

Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur was a popular swimming hole on Wednesday. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ce0af0c6aaaccedeee59f3cdfb8e00b7.jpg" alt="Photo - Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur was a popular swimming hole on Wednesday. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  " title=" Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur was a popular swimming hole on Wednesday. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  "><figcaption> Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur was a popular swimming hole on Wednesday. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d01bc264977d81515b5ff45c67c799a6.jpg" alt="Photo - There is a viewing area for the small bison herd that lives on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" There is a viewing area for the small bison herd that lives on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> There is a viewing area for the small bison herd that lives on the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c513cdee3905f8a4a8d18fac8cca441b.jpg" alt="Photo - The creeks through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area are like water playgrounds for children and nature lovers. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]   " title=" The creeks through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area are like water playgrounds for children and nature lovers. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]   "><figcaption> The creeks through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area are like water playgrounds for children and nature lovers. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]   </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-861aa6889ba3c9c2c853f530fad4c5f3.jpg" alt="Photo - Veterans Lake in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers a fishing dock, picnic areas, restrooms and a paved hiking and biking trail that circles the lake. The 67-acre lake was built in 1933 and named in honor of America's war veterans. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" Veterans Lake in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers a fishing dock, picnic areas, restrooms and a paved hiking and biking trail that circles the lake. The 67-acre lake was built in 1933 and named in honor of America's war veterans. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> Veterans Lake in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers a fishing dock, picnic areas, restrooms and a paved hiking and biking trail that circles the lake. The 67-acre lake was built in 1933 and named in honor of America's war veterans. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-972673f567af4f4a1ce78e405e3b3c8a.jpg" alt="Photo - A visitor to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur on Wednesday wades across Panther Falls. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  " title=" A visitor to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur on Wednesday wades across Panther Falls. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  "><figcaption> A visitor to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur on Wednesday wades across Panther Falls. [PHOTO BY LINDA LYNN, THE OKLAHOMAN]  </figcaption></figure>
Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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