Every once in a while, you’ve gotta get away. Whether you’re planning a short vacation for the whole family or you’re looking to see the sights for yourself, sometimes a field trip is just what the doctor ordered. This month, we decided to take the day off and go on a whirlwind tour of Oklahoma’s waterfalls. With this, we’re expanding upon our previous field trip to Turner Falls in Davis, Oklahoma.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Our first stop: Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Chickasaw NRA), in Sulphur, Okla. Located at the foot of the Arbuckle Mountains in Southeastern Oklahoma, the Chickasaw NRA is a sprawling wooded park that features a complex network of creeks originating from the massive Lake of the Arbuckles.
Founded in 1904 as the Sulphur Springs Reservation, renamed first as Platt National Park in 1906 and then as the Chickasaw NRA in 1976, the park is a full service camping destination. Our impression: The park is gorgeous and serene, even when it’s filled with people. The trails leading to one of the main attractions, Little Niagra, are clean and quiet. The Travertine Nature Center features some fun educational exhibits of local wildlife, including bison and redtailed hawks, as well as a gift shop. Little Niagra itself manages to be impressive despite the literal nature of its name, and is a popular swimming hole for the whole family. As a bonus, Turner Falls is just right down the road.
Travel time: It takes about an hour and a half to get from Edmond to Sulphur, or about 100 miles.
Admission: For a day-trip, the Chickasaw NRA is completely free to enjoy. For folks who want to make a weekend of it, camping fees range from $14 to $30 and a $9 reservation fee. According to the National Park Service, you must make your reservation for a campsite no later than seven days from the date you’re looking to camp out.
For more info: https://www.nps.gov/chic
Medicine Park / Wichita Mountains
After visiting the Chickasaw NRA and Turner Falls, it’s time to head over to the other side of the state. Medicine Park, located right on the cusp of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve, is probably the most adorable resort town this side of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in 1908 by Elmer Thomas, this “cobblestone community” was intentionally designed as a watering hole and relaxation spot for the surrounding communities. Medicine Creek runs through the town, with a bridge connecting both sides.
Our impression: Medicine Park might be the cutest resort town this side of the Rocky Mountains. It was certainly worth the drive time to get there from Sulphur.
When we arrived, the Red Dirt Ball, a free country and folk music festival, was well underway. The town, which normally houses roughly 400 people, was packed with tourists and festival-goers from all over the state. Like Chickasaw NRA and Little Niagra, the waterfall on Medicine Creek is open to the public for swimming, and the creek itself is a popular fishing destination. Its proximity to Wichita Mountain Wildlife Preserve makes it an excellent hub for adventurers.
Travel time: It takes two hours to get to Medicine Park from Sulphur. It takes another hour and a half to travel from Medicine Park back to Edmond via the H.E. Bailey Turnpike/I-44. There are two toll gates along that route that cost $1.75 and $1.50 respectively, so make sure you get some cash for your return trip.
Admission: Medicine Park does not cost anything to visit for the day, although parking was $2 for the music festival and it would have been another $2 to swim along the falls. For those looking to stay the night, the town offers dozens of lodging options.
For more info: http://www.medicinepark.com
Chickasaw NRA and Medicine Park make great additions to a broader “waterfall tour” of the state, and they’re the perfect destinations for family fun this summer.