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  Photo: John Gifford 
The Lower Mountain Fork River, located in southeast Oklahoma, is known for its rainbow and brown trout. In fact, the state record brown trout was caught in this river.

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The Mountain Fork River is a paradise for floaters and fishermen.

Winter Vacation Warm-up – Molina’s Mexican Grill

I leave the Oklahoma City area with my wife, Ellen, and son, Jackson, at about 9 a.m. on an unseasonably warm winter Saturday. We make it to Antlers, Oklahoma, around noon, at which point we stop at Molina’s Mexican Grill for lunch.

The décor at Molina’s is spartan, but the service and food are very good. The chips and salsa, in particular, are great. And while we pass on dessert, I’m pleased to see Molina’s understands the significance – and tradition – of ending your Mexican meal with a sweet praline, which it sells at the cash register.

Crossing Over – State Highway 3 Bridge at the Glover River

I love old bridges and can’t resist a quick stop at this one just west of Broken Bow. It seems like a great time to stretch our legs and, besides, the bridge crosses the Glover River.

The Glover is Oklahoma’s last major free-flowing river, and home to the endangered leopard darter and the Ouachita-strain smallmouth bass – a unique, genetically pure strain of this fish found nowhere else in the world.

While this stretch of river is easy to access, the state’s most scenic and isolated stretches of water can be found north of State Highway 3 in the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.

Skipping Rocks – State Highway 3 Bridge at the Glover River

There are just certain things kids have to know how to do, and skipping rocks is one of them. And when you have an opportunity to skip rocks on a river like the Glover, you don’t miss it.

When we stop at the State Highway 3 Bridge, I drive our vehicle down the rocky access road to the river, where there are plenty of stones for skipping. If we had more time, I would have insisted on seeing some of the stretches of river to the north, which are pristine. Maybe next time.

We’ve Arrived – Beavers Bend State Park

Though we’re visiting during winter, arriving at Beavers Bend State Park produces the same excitement you get when visiting during summer, the park’s busy season. That’s because Beavers Bend is one of Oklahoma’s most popular and scenic resort areas. Some of the activities offered include fishing, camping, miniature golf and canoeing. Best of all, these attractions are located in very close proximity to one another, allowing you to make the most out of your day.

One of our first stops is the nature center, where we see hawks, snakes, turtles, squirrels and several other species indigenous to this area.

The Forest through the Trees – Forest Heritage Center Exhibit

Along with tourism, logging is a major industry in this part of the state. After leaving the nature center, we make a quick stop at the Beavers Bend Forest Heritage Center, which celebrates this timber heritage and features a series of related dioramas and exhibits. Some of these explain how trees are used to make certain products. One exhibit shows the transformation of a piece of raw wood into a baseball bat. Another features the various types of chainsaws used by loggers during the past century.

Southern Beauty – Lake Broken Bow

After leaving the Forest Heritage Center, we drive through Beavers Bend and stop five minutes later to view Broken Bow Lake.  Broken Bow is one of the state’s best bass-fishing lakes – the current state-record largemouth bass came from this reservoir – and the entire Broken Bow/Hochatown community seems to revolve around this impoundment.

Facts aside, Broken Bow is the Oklahoma lake that will inspire you to just stop the car – right in the middle of the road – get out and just look at it. Which we do almost every time we drive past.

A New Angle – Mountain Fork River

As an angler, I don’t go anywhere without a fly rod. And there is no better place in Oklahoma to use a fly rod than the Lower Mountain Fork River.

We stop at Spillway Creek, my favorite section of river, and walk the hiking trail that parallels the stream. It’s a warm, 80-degree day, but I don’t bother fishing. Instead, we hike the trail, stopping to admire the river and watch an angler try to catch a trout. When you’re surrounded by sheer beauty, sometimes it is best just to stand back and take it all in.

Blazing a Trail – Beavers Bend Trail Marker

One of the things we most enjoy at Beavers Bend is hiking sections of the David Boren Hiking Trail. This 16-mile path through the park is comprised of several smaller trail sections ranging in length and difficulty. We spend a couple of hours hiking these trails, which cross streams, skirt the lake and wind through wooded valleys. The hikes here are very scenic and you’re likely to see deer, squirrels, rabbits and other local wildlife. The trailheads, too, are well-marked, such as this one on the Beaver Creek Trail.

If Hunger Strikes – Abendigo’s

Abendigo’s Grill and Patio is an elegant little restaurant located just north of Broken Bow off U.S. 259. In fact, it might remind you of the kind of swanky joint you’d find in, say, Tulsa. But the folks way down in southeast Oklahoma know good food, too.

Co-owner Chad Sargent calls the fare “creative, casual cuisine.” My family enjoys steaks and the Sicilian nachos, which come highly recommended by the locals. Cap off your trip to Broken Bow with a nice dinner here, but bring your own wine or favorite bourbon, as beer is the only alcohol Abendigo’s serves.  

It Takes a Village – Chautauqua Cabin

We spend a relaxing evening at the Chautauqua Cabin in Beavers Bend Village. This cabin is tastefully decorated, well-furnished and trimmed floor to ceiling in gleaming planks of pine. Oklahoma pine forest was never far away because of the cabin’s abundant windows with a view. Cardinals, woodpeckers, bluejays, wrens and a variety of other birds frequent the feeders on the back deck, and while we never saw one, we’re told that black bears frequent this area.

Homeward Bound – Honobia Creek

We start Sunday with breakfast at the Shady Oak Restaurant, located right across from the Beavers Bend park entrance, before heading back to Oklahoma City. On our way home, we stop at Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area between Antlers and Broken Bow.

Honobia Creek is a 76,000-acre pine and hardwood forest offering a wilderness-like experience for those who like to hunt, fish, bird watch or hike. A network of gravel logging roads allows access to all reaches of its pine forests, creeks and stream. They will lead you to areas you think haven’t seen another human in months – the perfect stop before returning to the city.