Skip to content

Oklahoma State Parks Showcase Diverse History, Beauty

Few states in the patchwork tapestry that make up the U.S. possess as integral a place in the story of the decades preceding the American Civil War as Oklahoma. Additionally, few others in the middle-West of the U.S. contain such varied and diverse cultural multitudes as the Sooner State.

Unsurprisingly, these two uniquely Oklahoman phenomena are inextricably linked.

For centuries before White settlers ever dreamed of North American shores, Native ancestors of the Wichita, Caddo, and Tonkawa Tribes lived and thrived in modern-day Oklahoma.

In the late 19th century, Americans began westward expansion to establish a country from “sea to shining sea.” Some of the first homesteaders went west of the Mississippi River to settle on the Oklahoma territory, setting up an uneasy tension between these early settlers and the Indigenous Tribes of the plains.

Concurrently, the cattle business boom was just beginning as Texas cattle herds would pass through nearly constantly in the summer months to markets in Dodge City, Kansas, or Denver.

This activity made Oklahoma a highway of inter-territory commerce that attracted bandits and outlaws and further heightened tension in the region.

The state is also the spot of some of the first “reservations” in what is now modern-day Oklahoma following the forced removal of numerous Native American Tribes from their lands during the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

It’s easy to see that as a cultural and historical waypoint in the timeline of America, Oklahoma’s place in U.S. history is unrivaled. Its State Parks system protects this history and preserves the land upon which it was written, some of the most beautiful in the country.

Here are some can’t-miss sites in the 46th state in the country. 

Great Plains State Park: No Oklahoma State Park experience would be complete without visiting one dedicated to its greatest geological features: the miles of Great Plains. This spot is an outdoor lover’s dream, with the nearby Wichita Mountains for hiking and Tom Steed Lake with access to all manner of watersports. History buffs will also enjoy the century-old mine that once operated in the region. There is something for everyone at this destination!

Photo Courtesy Travelok 

Natural Falls State Park: This spectacular 77-foot waterfall on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line draws visitors by the thousands annually. The site has hiking trails, a disc golf course, RV sites, basketball courts, and an observation deck at the great falls. Visitors are invited to rent one of the overnight yurts available for adventurers looking for a longer trip. Keen-eyed observers may also recognize some of the scenery from 1974’s “Where The Red Fern Grows,” which was shot largely at the park.

Photo Courtesy Travelok / Lori Duckworth 

Salt Plains State Park: A unique Oklahoman geological oddity can be seen and experienced firsthand at this site. A millennia ago, a vast ocean covered the Salt Plains; its leftover residue remains in the Oklahoma soil. The nearby Great Salt Plains Lake remains at about half of the saline quality as an ocean to this day. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing, or kayaking at the lake are popular activities. For the more curiously-minded, the park offers a selenite crystal dig from April to October. This spot is the only place in the world where the hourglass-shaped selenite crystal can be found. There is something for everyone at this location!

Photo Courtesy Travelok / Lori Duckworth

Share on Social

Back To Top