There’s more than meets the eye at Oklahoma State Parks. Unique natural features are just some of the wonders waiting to be found.
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The 2017 Oklahoma State Parks & Outdoor Recreation Guide highlights the unexpected natural treasures of the state parks. Order a free copy online or pick one up at a state park or Tourism Information Center to learn more about the surprising sights you’ll find at the parks like the ones listed below.
Kids will find their own little passageway on the caverns tour; a certain area of the cave is the perfect size for them to squeeze through while adults take the taller route.
For a unique experience, try spending the night in a small cave known as the Water Cave, which has a waterfall in the back of it.
On the east side of Turkey Flat Campground are a set of stone steps built into the earth. No one knows exactly how, when or why they’re there, but today they lead to a rocky creek bed and a short trail.
To understand what makes Black Mesa so special, just look to the skies. The remoteness of the area allows for some of the darkest night skies in the country, making it one of the region’s best stargazing spots.
Hikers who reach the summit marker on top of Black Mesa — an 8.4-mile roundtrip — will find journals with signatures and comments from others who have made the trek.
Several large pieces of petrified wood are on display around the park. Petrified wood forms when a tree or tree-like plant fossilizes.
Along the Scout Trail is a Burr Oak tree that is believed to be one of the oldest of its kind in Oklahoma. The tree is 18 feet in circumference and is estimated to be around 300 years old.
If a long day of fun in the water leaves you too tired to explore on foot, rent a golf cart at the park to tool around in.
At the northeast end of the park, a waterfall rushes over large granite rocks, creating beautiful scenery that photography buffs will love.
Those looking for modern amenities and a great waterfront view will love the two-bedroom family cabin. It sleeps eight and has a fireplace, full kitchen and huge deck overlooking the lake.
On select summer Saturdays, Sunset Cove Marina hosts Music on the Water with a musical act playing from the dock. Visitors can anchor their boats in the cove and watch from the Fort Cobb Lake waters or bring a lawn chair and relax on the marina’s deck.
Marked bins at the park contain selenite gypsum pieces for visitors to take home as souvenirs. Guests are discouraged from damaging the natural environment of the park by removing rock fragments themselves.
Look closely at the sides of the mountains to see white rings. The white substance is the gypsum leeching out of the ground.
Photography buffs will find that the Bernice area offers spectacular views of the sunrise along Grand Lake, particularly from the RV camping area.
The jagged rocks below the spillways next to the Little Blue area are popular for climbing and trail-riding for high-performance jeeps, trucks and all-terrain vehicles.
Hiking the Granite Hills Trail System will take you to the highest point in the park, where you’ll have stunning views of the park and lake.
In a state filled with freshwater lakes, the Great Salt Plains Lake stands out. Scientists believe the lake’s water is salty because of salt left over from an ocean that covered the state in prehistoric times.
Nestled out in the trees of the park is the Wildwood Chapel, a spot with a pulpit and benches where campers or locals can gather for reflection.
Hike the Ankle Express Trail to go over the Swinging Bridge, a suspension bridge that takes hikers over an arm of the lake. While the full trail is 18 miles, many just walk from the trailhead to the bridge and back.
The mile-and-a-half Family Fun Trail has a deck with sweeping views of the Arkansas River.
Set beneath the shade trees, the park’s beautiful wooden gazebo is a popular spot for weddings and family gatherings.
Guests of the Paradise Cottage will find a trail that leads through a densely wooded area and down to a gorgeous view of Keystone Lake.
For a different view of the lake, take a sunset cruise from Lake Murray Water Sports & Mini-Golf.
Check out one of the privately owned Lake Murray Floating Cabins, which are on floating docks on the lake, offering prime views of sunsets and sunrises.
For those who want to enjoy a luxurious trip around the lake but don’t have a boat, several businesses in the area offer sunset cruises or yachts for charter.
One of Oklahoma’s most unique symbols, the crystal cluster known as a rose rock is found in abundance in Noble and nearby at Lake Thunderbird State Park.
The park has five butterfly gardens featuring a variety of native wildflowers, including many different species of milkweed that should provide snacks for species like the monarch while they pass through on their fall migration.
The Poteau River, which flows into Lake Wister, is the only north-flowing river in Oklahoma.
For those who would rather watch the action than join in, an ADA-accessible observation deck has built-in binoculars to provide a bird’s-eye view of the dunes.
Adjacent to the park is the McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area, a nearly untouched piece of nature where visitors can hike, bike or ride horses on miles of trails.
Those in need of a quiet getaway can find it at the park’s lake huts. The quaint structures have bunk beds and fireplaces, and some have views of the lake.
The damp environment created by the falls allows ferns, mosses and liverwort to thrive. Keep an eye on the forest floor while hiking the trails to see some rare plant species.
Follow the Falls Creek Trail to get an up-close look at the park’s small but picturesque waterfalls.
Those who like the idea of camping more than actually putting up a tent will find the perfect compromise with the park’s wall tents. The structures have canvas walls, four small beds inside and a porch to relax on.
With rustic décor, fireplaces and a lakeside location, the park’s six quaint cabins are certainly gems. Some even have screened-in porches where guests can relax and enjoy lake views after a fun day exploring nature.
Cabin 101 has become a favorite of regular visitors. Its location provides sweeping views of the valleys below and of the Sans Bois Mountains.
Hike or bike the Mesa Loop Trail to get to Inspiration Point, a spot with stunning views of Lake Watonga and the rugged landscape of western Oklahoma.
The short Three Springs Trail takes hikers along a path to the park’s most picturesque attractions: three naturally flowing springs that provided early settlers with a fresh source of drinking water.
From April to October, Roman Nose offers a unique camping experience within the beautiful canyon, where guests have the opportunity to sleep in a teepee. The structures are surprisingly spacious and can be rented for a nominal fee. The teepees are also conveniently located near perfect views of the gypsum rock cliffs and natural springs.
A short walk along the park’s Fossil Trail provides gorgeous views of the rugged shoreline. Those who look closely at the rocks along the trails might see the fossilized remains of marine animals and mollusks.
The park has several unique picnic shelters made of native rock. Visit the one on the north end of the park for a beautiful view of the lake and the gorgeous limestone cliffs.
Those looking for a secluded RV campsite should try Blue Jay Knob Campground. The semi-modern campground sits at the park’s highest point, located off the beaten path amid gorgeous scenery.