Hot Oklahoma summers and cold natural swimming holes are a classic combination.
Continue reading below
If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional pools and water parks, these swimming hot spots that are fed by Oklahoma’s refreshing rivers, creeks and waterfalls are ideal destinations for summertime fun.
The clear, cold waters of Blue Hole Park have been attracting swimmers around the Tulsa area for generations. This popular summertime destination is great for catching crawdads and having old fashioned fun with the family. The shallow area is ideal for tiny tots and there is a concession stand serving snacks when hunger strikes between swimming sessions. RV and tent camping sites are available for extended trips. Note: water shoes or sandals with straps are recommended when swimming at Blue Hole Park.
Perhaps Oklahoma’s most unique swimming hole, Gage Artesian Beach is a must-see destination not only for its cool waters, but for its history as well. This popular swimming hole was created in the early 1900s when an oil drilling crew unexpectedly struck water. As the water sprang from the surrounding Oklahoma soil, a natural pool was formed. After a brief stint as a health resort, which publicized the healing benefits of its green-tinted mineral waters, the beach now features cement sides and a sandy, lake-like bottom. Bring the entire family and watch the kids have a blast on the slide and diving board.
Turner Falls Park in Davis has it all – mountains, stunning scenery and one of the state’s tallest waterfalls that empties into a natural pool below. Book a cabin in the area and stay for a weekend of splashing, riding slides and making s’mores over a campfire. A day spent at Turner Falls is a true Oklahoma tradition during the year’s hottest months. Thousands of visitors come during the peak season to enjoy the refreshing water, as well as hiking and cave exploration within the surrounding area.
Oklahoma’s original cobblestone community, Medicine Park in southwestern Oklahoma was once a popular resort town in the early 1920s and 30s. Starlets, outlaws and other celebrities vacationed in the area, which has since experienced a rebirth as a popular vacation spot near the Wichita Mountains. Medicine Park Creek creates picturesque cascades and a fun place to swim for locals and visitors alike. There are also several bridges that cross the creek, which runs right through the middle of town, for easy access to all of Medicine Park’s charming attractions.
Take a dip in the gently flowing waters of Pennington Creek near the creek’s dam, which is located near the center of town within a 15-acre park. The dam creates a large and picturesque swimming hole that attracts visitors looking to cool off on hot summer days. The water is cold and refreshing, while the lush trees and native flora that surround the swimming area add to its scenic beauty. Bring along a tent and extend your Tishomingo trip at Pennington Creek Park. There are restroom and shower facilities on-site and plenty of other attractions nearby.
Lined by green trees and unique rock formations, the Illinois River has been a premier destination for kayaking and canoeing for decades. Grab your bathing suit and jump in – there are several public access points every few miles along the river. The Watts Public Access area, Round Hollow, Stunkard, Peavine, Edmonson, No Head Hollow, Todd, Echota, Sequoyah Club and other public access areas permit swimming. There are also several places to camp along the river with numerous float trip outfitters, such as Sparrow Hawk Camp. If hunger hits after a day on the water, head into nearby Tahlequah for pizza, coffee shops and more.
Beavers Bend State Park is known for its gorgeous fall foliage when the leaves change, but during the summer, outdoor adventurers flock to this Oklahoma paradise for the chance to enjoy the Mountain Fork River’s brisk currents. Near the center of the park outside of Broken Bow, there is small inlet that creates a perfect swimming hole and gathering spot for families and friends. Be sure to bring a few extra dollars for the mini golf course, paddle boat and canoe rentals, tasty snacks at the concession stand and treats from the snow cone shack that are all just a short walk away.
Rising temperatures have heralded trips to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur since 1906 when it was known as Platt National Park. The cool waters of Travertine Creek flow through Little Niagara, one of the park’s most popular places to swim. Garfield Falls, Panther Falls and Bear Falls are also great areas to enjoy the rushing and bubbling of the stream while savoring a picnic along the shoreline. Before heading to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, call ahead and make sure that adequate rainfall has filled the creek and the water is flowing.