Venture and Enjoy

Beavers Bend Rod Run

Nestled in the sprawling Beavers Bend State Park, The Beavers Bend Rod Run features over 150 gorgeous street rods, all built before 1973. Spend some time walking down the many rows of incredible classic, muscle and vintage vehicles. If that isn’t enough, you can also enjoy family friendly games, door prizes and even a poker run! Concessions vendors on site. Hosted by the Kiamichi Street Rod Association.

Hiking and Biking Code of Conduct

Hiking and Biking Code of Conduct

Hiking and biking is a favorite activity for many, and in Choctaw Country there are waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife and stunning views. We’ve put together five simple Do’s and Don’t’s to help make your experience in Choctaw Country one to remember.

DO

  • Wear Waterproof/Breathable Materials: Meaning, materials that will block rain and wind, but will also let you sweat. Nylon or polyester are two materials used mainly for lightweight and ultra-light rain clothing. Suitable for intensive outdoor activities such as hiking and biking.

DON’T

  • Disturb the Natural Surroundings: As the saying goes, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footsteps.” Taking home mementos can destroy the natural habitat for the animals and plants in Choctaw Country and ruin the enjoyment for generations to come. Instead, bring a camera and share your memories and photos with us using hashtag #ChoctawCountry to be featured on our social pages.

trail biking

DO

  • Bring Essentials: Whether you’re hiking or biking you need to feel secure when on rough ground. Your shoes should fit snug, but not tight and offer room to wiggle your toes. In addition, bring along these basic essentials: compass, insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses and a small first aid kit.

DON’T

  • Hog the Trail: Most trails are multi-use. Alert other riders and hikers as you approach, especially if you’re approaching from behind. If you need to pass, slow down, ring a bell or verbally announce yourself. Use extra caution when around horses and be aware when riding/hiking trails have poor sight lines and blind corners.

hiking

DO

  • Pick a Suitable Trail: Choctaw Country offers a vast variety of trails that range from easy to strenuous. Most of our trails are very scenic with streams, waterfalls and wildlife around every corner, so you won’t miss a thing regardless of the trail. Click here for some of the best trails to step back into nature and recharge your mind, soul and spirit.

Whether you prefer a short walk or a multi-mile-long rugged hike or bike, the trails of Choctaw Country offer breathtaking views for everyone. Hurry up and slow down, and enjoy one of several Choctaw Country trails where you can get “lost” in the best way.

Explore the Great Outdoors

Explore the Great Outdoors

By Christian Toews
From the May 2021 Biskinik

The weather is warming up, spring is in the air and there is no better time to enjoy the roads and trails around Choctaw Country.

The popularity of outdoor recreation has increased dramatically over the last year. COVID-19 had many adverse effects on our culture, but one of the positives is that many people have begun to take their health more seriously. Many people have picked up outdoor exercise such as cycling and hiking, with gyms closing or limiting access.

According to a New York Times article, the rise in bicycle sales, along with the pandemic, has led to a global shortage of bikes. Many customers are still waiting on bikes they ordered last year.

Thankfully, hiking shoes are plentiful, and bikes have recently become easier to find. While not everything will return to normal, hopefully, many of our good habits will remain.

Cycling or hiking in Choctaw Country is an excellent option for outdoor activities that are fun for the whole family.

Hiking can be a great way to get or stay in shape.

One of the best spots for hiking in southeast Oklahoma is the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. Located along Oklahoma Hwy. 1 or the Talimena Scenic Drive, this recreation area offers camping, cabins, fishing, horse riding, hunting, picnicking, and hiking.

The Oklahoma portion of the Ouachita trail begins here, and many distance options are available from Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. The Ouachita Trail is a 226.3-mile trail that extends from Talihina, Oklahoma, to near Little Rock, Arkansas.

The trail has smaller sections for people who don’t want to hike the entire route. A few loops connect to adjacent fire roads and trails that will lead you back to the trailhead at Winding Stair. A good resource for locating and looking at these trails is www.alltrails.com.

Dusty Hill, a trail runner and hiker from Texas, says his favorite part of the Ouachita trail is the views along the way.

Hill said he would recommend the trail to any level of hiker.

“It’s not terribly difficult, though there are some long climbs and some technical areas as far as running the trail. Just bring plenty of water or a way to purify water,” said Hill.

A good pair of trainers will work for this hike, but many people prefer hiking boots. Be sure to bring tick repellent and dress for the conditions if you plan to hike in this area.

The Talihina area also has some of the area’s best roads for cycling. Cyclists come from all over the country to ride near Talihina because of the challenging elevation and incredible views.

Benjamin Benson, a Choctaw tribal member and cyclist, says he would recommend the area to any cyclist who wants a challenge.

“There are not too many big climbs around Oklahoma, so it’s a good place to visit. Plus, the roads through there (the Talimena Drive) are quite smooth,” said Benson.

He said that he loves the challenge and the scenery of riding in the Talihina area.

“When you climb to the top of one of the climbs and just stop and look. Kind of makes all the suffering worth it,” he said.

Many cyclists choose to ride part of the Talimena scenic drive for the views, but there are also excellent paved and gravel roads around the area to enjoy.

A great resource for discovering routes around this area is the “heatmap” from Strava.com. This tool allows you to see where people ride and helps you plan a cycling route of your own. You can find this tool at www.strava.com/heatmap.

Beavers Bend State Park and the adjacent Hochatown State Park are also popular cycling and hiking locations in Choctaw Country.

This area has a lot to offer. You can hike trails, ride mountain bikes, enjoy road cycling and even ride gravel roads on your gravel bike. Whatever type of cycling or hiking you’re into, this area has you covered.

Don’t have a bike? Not a problem when you visit Hochatown. Sabra Blankenship is the owner of Flawless Wellness Spa, which offers mountain bike rentals.

According to Blankenship, her 16-year-old son, Kylen Myers, used his savings to purchase 16 mountain bikes and launched a mountain bike rental business last year. Kylen takes care of all the maintenance on the bikes himself.

“We started this business because we want people to be able to take care of themselves and stay active. We strive to help people reach the goal of wellness,” she said.

They now have adult and children’s bikes available for rent.

Blankenship said that business has steadily increased, and they hope to purchase more bikes soon to serve even more customers.

You can find more information about the spa and mountain bike rentals at flawlesswellnessspa.com.

The hiking in Beavers Bend State Park and the surrounding areas will not disappoint.

There are multiple trail options for every level of hiker. One of the most popular hikes is called the “Skyline Trail” that begins inside Beavers Bend State Park. Nearly eight miles long, this trail has challenging terrain and incredible views. You can find all of the trails in this area at www.alltrails.com.

If you want to get out and do some new roads or trails on a bike, or if you’re going to take a family hike, Choctaw Country has an option for you.

Beaver's Bend Brewery

Pints and Plates

Is there anything better than achieving that perfect balance of your favorite beverage with a great snack or meal? Our palates can identify five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory.

Here in Choctaw Country, you can dabble in all the tastes and be able to make great choices no matter what’s on your plate or in your glass!

Vojai’s Winery – Broken Bow, OK
Get uncorked at Vojai’s Winery and enjoy the fruity flavors of their signature Rainmaker wine. We all know wine and cheese pairings are ageless companions. But remember, the wine should always be sweeter than the food. A few great choices to go with xx wine is pepper jack, Brie and Muenster. Add some smoked prosciutto, nuts, crackers or sliced bread and you’ve got yourself the ultimate charcuterie board!

Beaver’s Bend Brewery – Broken Bow, OK
There’s nothing better than a cold beer and hot dog. The Blond Beaver Ale is a light blonde ale with a touch of hops that separate it from traditional American lagers and ales. The sweet maltiness and low caramel notes work well with the fatty richness of a hot dog.

Be sure to check out Beaver’s Bend Brewery’s other delicious brews at several area restaurants throughout McCurtain County. Plus, taproom guests can purchase refillable growlers and bottles to share with friends and family!

Hochatown Distilling Company

Hochatown Distilling Co. – Hochatown, OK
As summer approaches, bourbon and barbecue can be an essential part to any backyard summer experience. Hochatown Distilling Company Single Barrel Straight Bourbon contains the familiar blend of caramel, vanilla, oak and roasted almond notes layered on sweet aromatics with a nice rye spice finish for a one-of-a kind flavor. This makes it the perfect pairing partner for smoky and fatty meats. As for barbecue, you can pretty much smoke or grill favorites ranging from brisket, ribs or pulled pork.

Whether you’re into breweries, wineries or distilleries, tap into all the flavors Choctaw Country has to offer! Hurry up and slow down, it’s always 5’o clock somewhere.

Hochatown Distilling Company

Craft Beverages

By Christian Toews
From the April 2021 Biskinik

Spring is a great time to enjoy some of Oklahoma’s craft beer, wineries or distilleries. This industry has been steadily growing across Oklahoma, and Choctaw Country is no exception. In 2018 Oklahoma modernized its alcohol laws allowing craft beer to become more of a staple. These changes also lifted some restrictions on wineries and distilleries.

Let’s begin by looking at craft beer. If you are near Durant, Oklahoma, you are in luck. There is a brewery just a few minutes north that is hopping. Pun intended.

Drew Harbin is the Harbinger Beer Company owner. He and his wife Kayla had the dream of opening a brewery for years, he said. They finally made that dream a reality when they purchased a building in downtown Caddo in 2017. They completely renovated the space, adding an 1800 square feet brewery and taproom, according to Harbin.

He said that he wants the brewery to help revive the downtown area.

“It’s been really cool to see downtown Caddo come alive again. I’m really glad we can be a part of the revitalization,” Harbin said.

According to Harbin, another goal is to tie in some of the area’s history to the brewery. He said that they named several of their beers after features and the history of the local area.

Harbinger Beer Company
Photo by Christian Toews
Drew Harbin enjoys one of his craft beers inside Harbinger Beer Company. Drew founded the brewery with his wife Kayla in 2017.

Drew said that when you come to the brewery, you get a very personal experience.

Drew and Kayla run the brewery themselves. This allows you to hear about the process of creating specific beers and learn what goes into brewing great beer.

You can find the hours, upcoming events, and more on their website at harbingerbeer.com or their Facebook page.

Drew said he recently began a podcast called “Behind the Brewhouse” if you want to get to know more about Drew.

Harbin says, between bringing food trucks to the brewery and live music, there is always something going on at Harbinger Beer Company.

If you travel to the Southeastern side of the Choctaw Nation, you will find tall pine trees, mountains and rivers. Nestled in this beautiful scenery is Hochatown, Oklahoma.

This town sits at the entrance to one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful attractions, Beavers Bend State Park. Hochatown is home to Hochatown Distilling Company, currently the only distillery in the Choctaw Nation, according to Hichell McDaniel.

McDaniel is one of Hochatown Distilling Company’s four owners, and says the distillery opened six years ago.

McDaniel says that because bourbon can take years to age, many new distilleries will purchase bourbon from another distillery and put their label on it. This allows the distillery to begin making a profit right away. However, Hochatown Distilling Company chose to not release any product until they felt like their bourbon was ready.

McDaniel said they were fortunate enough to have other businesses to help offset the cost while they perfected their bourbon. He noted that all of the bourbons they release now are about three and a half years old.

McDaniel noted the difference between a large distillery and a small distillery, saying that you can enjoy a more personal experience at a small distillery.

“We spend quite a bit of time with folks. We show them all the equipment and talk about the process. We give them an understanding of what’s happening and then do a sampling toward the end. People seem to enjoy that very much. That more personalized touch just makes for a better experience,” he explained.

McDaniel said that it could be challenging to get bourbon distributed in Oklahoma, but they feel that they are now getting recognized for their hard work.

“Six years in and we feel pretty good about where we are,” McDaniel said. “It took us a while to while for us to get distributors to pay attention to us because we didn’t have a route to sell our product.”

Their bourbon is now sold in many places across Oklahoma. Including the 1832 Steakhouse located inside the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. Hochatown Distilling Company also collaborated with Mounting Fork Brewing in Hochatown to create a barrel-aged beer, according to McDaniel.

If you would like to learn more about Hochatown Distilling Company or find tour information, visit hochatowndistilling.com.

Blue River Valley Winery
Photo by Christian Toews
Blue River Valley Winery is a small boutique winery located near Durant, Oklahoma, on the beautiful Blue River. This Choctaw tribal member-owned business has been serving up a wide variety of wines since 2015.

Heading back over to the southwestern side of the Choctaw Nation, located on a beautiful property not far from highway 75 north of Durant sits Blue River Valley Winery. As you can tell from the name, the winery’s front porch looks out over Oklahoma’s Blue River valley.

Established in 2015, Blue River Valley Winery is a small establishment with a wide variety of wines. No matter what your preference, you will surely find a bottle that you love.

Hillary and Diane Dean are the winery owners and said that the winery location is exceptional.

“We have donkeys that everybody really loves and geese that are friendly. It’s a very rural setting out here with a beautiful view of the Blue River. People from the Dallas area come out here and say, “This is so beautiful,” said Diane.

Hillary went on to say that they pour a lot of love into the winery.

“Diane and I both had careers that we retired from before we opened the winery. The winery is not a job. It’s a passion. It’s something we both really enjoy doing and people pick up on that when they come to visit,” he said.

The Deans said that customers come from all over the country and even worldwide, which makes the business fun and exciting.

“You just never know who is going to walk through the door. You meet so many new people,” said Diane.

Hillary said that he started home brewing beer 26 years ago and that lead him to handcrafted wine.

“We were visiting Diane’s relatives in Georgia, and I had the opportunity to try some handcrafted peach wine, and that was amazing. I came back and started making wine and didn’t look back,” he said.

Once he began making wine, it stayed a hobby until November of 2015, when they opened the winery, Hillary explained.

Now in their sixth year of business, they have 22 varieties of wine and the reviews on their Facebook page indicating they are well-loved by everyone who visits the winery.

If you would like more information about Blue River Valley Winery, you can visit bluerivervalleywinery.com.

Whether you are a craft beer drinker, a bourbon connoisseur, or love a glass of local wine, The Choctaw Nation has something to offer you. It’s warming up outside, and now is the perfect time to spend an evening at one of Oklahoma’s finest wineries, breweries, or distilleries, right here in Choctaw Country.

Turn today's catch into a flavorful meal

Get Hooked on Trout

The Mountain Fork River located near Broken Bow, Okla., is prime territory for trout fishing as it’s swimming with trout year-round. The river’s constant flow and cool waters are an ideal place to catch brown and rainbow trout.

One of the exciting aspects of catching and eating trout is the variety of flavors available, as trout taste different depending on its environment. So, let’s take the plunge and get to cooking!

Smoked

First step in smoking fish is brining! This recipe calls for three simple ingredients: water, brown sugar and kosher salt. This simple brine gives the fish a rich, sweet element by enhancing the flavor of the trout without being too overpowering.

Start by adding 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (coarse grain) and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. You can also add in aromatics or flavor in the form of fresh herbs or fresh garlic and onions. Place the trout in the brine and set it in the refrigerator and brine for about 15 – 20 minutes. If you’ve got a thicker filet of steelhead trout, brine for 30-40 minutes.

Once your trout has finished brining, it’s ready to smoke. Preheat your smoker to 180 degrees F. Smoke the trout fillets for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.

At this point, your trout should be cooked throughout and should flake easily. It can be plated and eaten with veggies, rice or even placed onto of a cracker or crusty bread with cream cheese.

Grilled

A simple garlic and herb infused marinate combined with wine vinegar acts as both a basting liquid and a sauce for the fish. The trout skin protects the flesh and turns an appealing golden-brown during grilling.

In a small saucepan, combine oil, garlic, sage and rosemary. Cook over moderately low heat until the garlic just starts to brown. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper.

Put the trout fillets in a medium glass dish or pan. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining. Add half of the oil-and-vinegar mixture and turn to coat.

Grill the fish skin-side down for 2 minutes. Turn and cook another 2 minutes. To serve, whisk the remaining oil-and-vinegar mixture and pour it over the hot fish.

Whether you prefer to wade out into the river with a fly rod, or fry it up in the kitchen, the fish around southeastern Oklahoma never disappoints. Hurry up and slow down and discover what’s biting around McCurtain County.

Trout Fishing

Trout Fishing

By Christian Toews
From the Jan. 2021 Biskinik

If you ask any fisherman, the sport holds more than catching fish. There is something peaceful and refreshing about the entire process. The company or the solitude. Time spent in nature’s glory. The excitement of catching a new personal record fish. Although fishing can seem simple, there are many reasons people get hooked on the sport.

People have enjoyed fishing for centuries. Although there are many ways to catch fish, one of the most challenging and rewarding ways is fly-fishing. This method involves a specific type of lure called a fly. The fly is attached to a very long line and rod. The goal is to impersonate a small insect and trick the fish into biting the fly. The fisherman (also known as an angler) will cast his line over his head in a beautiful rhythmic motion that will imitate an insect flying and landing on the water. Even if you don’t fish, watching someone fly fish is a mesmerizing experience.

Watching the fly go back and forth over the angler’s head and then finally rest on the water and flow downstream. The angler decides what fly to use and how to make his gear mimic an insect. Most anglers will agree, catching a fish is simply a bonus to being on the water and practicing your skills.

While you can fly fish on lakes and ponds, most fly-fishing is done in streams and rivers. If you are familiar with fly fishing, your initial thoughts might go toward Montana, Idaho or Alaska. But as many people are discovering, world-class fly fishing is right here in Oklahoma. In the far southeastern corner of the state, just a 30 minute drive from the Arkansas border, sits one of Oklahoma’s hidden fly-fishing gems.

Beavers Bend State Park holds twelve miles of excellent fishing. The Lower Mountain Fork River offers year-round trout fishing in a beautiful location. The river runs through the Ouachita Mountains, and even driving through Beavers Bend State Park to get to the river is gorgeous.

Trout Fishing at Lower Mountain Fork River
Jeff Preddy fly fishes in the fog of a cold morning in Beavers Bend State Park. Anglers are traveling to Southeastern Oklahoma to discover the world-class fly fishing that the lakes and rivers of the area have to offer.

Jeff Preddy is a fly fishing guide on the Lower Mountain Fork River. Fishing is in his blood. Jeff’s father is an outfitter and a guide, and he grew up fishing and hunting. Preddy has guided fishing trips across the country and said the Lower Mountain Fork River is one of his favorite spots to fish because it’s a challenging river.

“I have fished all over the united states, several big saltwater fisheries, and The Lower Mountain Fork is the toughest river I have ever fished. It tests you as an angler,” said Preddy.

Although he has fished with all kinds of equipment, Preddy said that fly fishing is unique and challenging as a sport.

“I feel that it (fly-fishing) really is an art. You have an abnormally long fishing rod; you have a different line setup than any other type of line there is, you have a reel that’s not like any type of convention reel. To learn the cast, it takes an extreme amount of patients. To learn the timing takes an extreme amount of patients. I have been fly-fishing for ten years, and I am still learning how to improve my cast,” He said.

Many people love fly-fishing, not only for the challenge but also for spending time on the river and enjoying nature. Preddy said that this is one of his favorite fishing aspects, and he finds the river to be relaxing.

“You’re standing in the river. Listening to the sounds of the river, you’re watching nature at its finest,” explained Preddy. “You’ll see deer cross; beavers swim through, ducks, you have a ton of outdoor activity surrounding you. There is nothing more therapeutic to me than standing in a river and listening to nature.”

Maybe you want to fish for trout for the first time, or perhaps you’re a long-time fly-fisherman who wants to try the Lower Mountain Fork. Either way, hiring a guide is a practical way to get familiar with the area and learn a thing or two. Preddy said that hiring a guide is a great idea no matter where you choose to go fish.

“It helps in several ways. A guide already has the proper gear; they are paying attention to the weather, paying attention to the river; they are going to know what flies are in season. A guide is already going to have all that stuff figured out. If you don’t come in with a guide and without doing your homework, you’re guessing. We take the guesswork out of your day,” stated Preddy. “I have been fishing my whole life; if I’m going somewhere I’m not familiar with, I will hire a guide,” he continued.

Fishing might seem like a summer sport, but winter is one of the best times to fish for trout. Preddy explained that during the warmer months, the trout would find the cooler water deeper in the river, but you have a better chance of catching large fish during the winter months.

“You get into your larger fish during the winter months because they will get up in ankle-deep water and hangout and sunbathe,” said Preddy.

Whether you are a beginner, experienced angler, or anything in between, Beavers Bend State Park in Southeastern Oklahoma has something to offer you. If you are looking for beautiful scenery and big trout, now is a great time to visit and try your luck on the water.

If you would like more information about the Lower Mountain Fork River, from water level to regulations, visit wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/wheretofish/southeast/lower-mountain-fork. If you would like to learn more about Beavers Bend Fly Fishing Guide Service, You can visit their website at beaversbendflyfishingguideservice.com.

Glamping

Glamping

For many, the desire to spend free time in the great outdoors is an adventure. When you have some time to plan a vacation the details of how you may choose to do it however can range far and wide. Which raises the question, are you a camper or glamper?

Camping is considered stripping life down to the bare essentials. Many would say it’s a backpack, tent, some simple rations and a sleeping bag.

Glamping, short for glamorous camping, has become a very popular outdoor recreation recently. If your essentials list contains things like, a real mattress, running water and a toilet these “luxuries” bridge the gap for you from traditional camping to the comforts of home in the great outdoors.

Choctaw Country has a collection of cottages, cabins, lodges and treehouses that will encourage you to travel, no matter what your outdoor preference. Below are some examples of such opportunities:

Cottages

Created for sweethearts and families, River’s Edge Cottages in Watson, Okla. have easy access to the Mountain Fork River, many of them perched right above it, with breathtaking views of the clear blue-green water.

The gorgeous secluded setting offers plenty of indoor luxury and outdoor fun for families and couples who need an escape from the distractions of the daily grind.

Cabins

The perfect weekend getaway for a Beavers Bend or Broken Bow cabin rental is waiting for you in Broken Bow, OK.

Walk through Bear Mountain Lodging’s cabins and discover different spectacular views of majestic mountains, beautiful bluffs and a rippling river.

Bear Mountain Lodging has it all! From the winding road up the mountain to the stunning views of beautiful Broken Bow Lake. Sitting on a three-acre plot on the mountaintop these cabins allow you to experience both the breathtaking view as well as the gentle sounds of the Mountain Fork River flowing below.

Lodges

The Choctaw Hunting Lodge in Blanco, Okla. is situated on 44,000 privately-owned acres and has a 7-bedroom lodge making it the ultimate outdoor experience on Native American soil for trophy whitetail hunts. Guests have access to amenities such as, outdoor fire pits, horseshoe pits and a volleyball court.

Treehouses

Calico Heights located in Stigler, Okla., nestles along the shores of Lake Eufaula, convenient to fishing, kayaking, or canoeing. Enjoy a view of the lake from one of seven tree house bungalows.

Designed for year-round rental, these treehouse cabins are fully furnished and offer popular amenities. Amongst the trees on a 12-acre ridge, multiple floors plans are available with distinct interior designs that create an adorable uniqueness to every unit. Located just minutes from town, yet secluded and private on a fated property.

No matter what the season or what type of camping you prefer, Choctaw Country is a place to hurry up and slow down.

Camping and Backpacking

Camping and Backpacking

By Christian Toews
From the Nov. 2020 Biskinik

The cold air of the morning, the smell of smoke lingers, the sound of the zipper as you emerge from your sleeping bag. Maybe this brings back some of your best camping memories, or perhaps you have never experienced a morning like this. Waking up after sleeping in the great outdoors can be a refreshing experience.

Camping is a popular activity in southeastern Oklahoma. Some families go camping to reconnect and revitalize their relationships away from all the distractions at home. Some people go camping to escape their busy every-day life. Others want to get close to the ways our ancestors lived. No matter your reason for going, camping is a truly unique way to break away from routine and experience the great outdoors.

It turns out that setting up a tent and sleeping under the stars has many benefits too. One of these benefits is improved sleep cycles. In a study by Kenneth Wright at the University of Colorado Boulder, Wright set out to see how participants’ circadian rhythms were affected when they were exposed to only natural light. He sent them on a week-long camping trip and measured levels of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for telling our bodies when it’s time for bed and helps set a person’s internal clock. Wright found that people’s internal clocks were off by two hours in our modern environment with abundant electronics and artificial light. This isn’t a good thing because a lack of sleep has been associated with many health problems. Wright was able to show that the participant’s melatonin levels, and their internal clock, were able to recalibrate after only a week of camping in nature.

Weekend backpacking
Many people use short escapes into the wilderness as a way to reconnect, away from the distractions of home.

Another benefit of camping is reduced stress. That is something we all want. Our lives have become so busy that we forget to slow down and enjoy the world around us.

In a study published earlier this year, an interdisciplinary team from Cornell University was able to show that as little as 10 minutes in nature can help college students feel happier and lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress. Imagine what a weekend in the great outdoors can do for you.

The night sky has become lost to most people who live in a city. Light pollution has choked out the stars in much of the country. You may see a few stars at night in your neighborhood, but a single streetlight can make it difficult to see the night sky in all of its glory. Oklahoma’s southeastern region still retains some of the darkest skies in the country. This is just another reason to get outside at night and look up at the unpolluted skies. On a clear night, you might even catch a glimpse of the milky way.

With beautiful scenery, diverse wildlife and plenty of terrain options to choose from, southeastern Oklahoma has some of the midwest’s best camping spots. Whether you enjoy camping near a lake, a river or near mountains, this region has it all.

Setting up tent
Adrianna Mandt setting up her tent.

Talimena State Park is the entrance to the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This winding paved road through the Winding Stair Mountains is known for dazzling spring and fall displays of foliage. Visitors from all over the country come to experience this scenic drive. Talimena State Park offers camping spots, hiking trails throughout the Ouachita National Forest, Dirt Bike and ATV trails and more. With its breathtaking mountaintop views and steep hikes, you might not feel like you’re in Oklahoma.

South of Talihina, another great camping spot, attracts campers year-round. Beaver’s Bend State Park near Broken Bow, Oklahoma, has spectacular lakeside camping spots and more wooded camping areas if that’s what you prefer. Beavers Bend is unique and offers hiking and mountain biking trails, world-class fly fishing on the Mountain Fork River, excellent angling in Broken Bow Lake, and many great restaurants and activities just minutes from the State Park. This area has become a vacation destination for many people who want to escape the big city’s hustle and bustle while still offering many restaurants and activities to enjoy. Beaver’s Bend, and the surrounding area, provide secluded and peaceful areas only minutes from great food, drinks and nightlife. It is truly one of Oklahoma’s hidden gems.

Campfire
Adrianna Mandt and Stephen Graham enjoy a weekend backpacking and camping.

There are other unique places to camp in this region near Durant, Atoka, McAlester, Poteau and Hugo, to name a few. Oklahoma is a diverse and exciting landscape that everyone should explore.

With the many benefits camping has to offer, the beautiful locations, and outdoor activities, there are many great reasons to plan your next trip to southeastern Oklahoma. Fall temperatures are here, and the holiday season is quickly approaching. Now is a great time to spend some time outdoors with your family and friends. Who knows, you might improve your health while you’re at it.

Backpacking in Choctaw Country

Explore Oklahoma History

Explore Oklahoma History

By Christian Toews
From the Oct. 2020 Biskinik

Museums give us a valuable glimpse into the past. They ensure the understanding and appreciation of various groups and cultures. With the invention of online catalogs and photo galleries, museums might seem like an outdated institution. But museums offer something that you cannot get from reading about or looking at an ancient artifact. Seeing something in person is quite different from seeing it on the pages of a book or a computer screen.

Museums across Southeastern Oklahoma offer a wide variety of displays that everyone will enjoy. One of these museums is the Museum of the Red River in Idabel, Oklahoma. This 58,000 square-feet museum showcases southeastern Oklahoma’s rich and diverse history. Their artifacts show us that this land has been home to many different and interesting people for generations.

The Museum of the Red River has acquired a wide variety of materials and artifacts. According to the museum’s director, Henry Moy, the museum initially focused on preserving material culture from local native American groups. However, that focus quickly grew beyond southeast Oklahoma. While they still focus heavily on the area and indigenous groups, the museum’s collection has grown to include art from around the world.

Moy said that the museum was founded in 1974 by the Herron family. When the development of the area began to escalate, many archeological projects uncovered ancient objects. These artifacts were being sent to larger cities because there was no place for them to be stored and viewed in southeastern Oklahoma. That is when the Herron family, along with a very large advisory committee, stepped in to preserve the history and culture that was being discovered, Moy said.

Quintus Herron, who founded the museum was a Choctaw Tribal member. His son Donald Herron now operates the Herron foundation that supports the museum. Donald said the museum’s mission is to provide a place where native artifacts can be taken care of and viewed.

Museum of the Red River
Jeremy Gauna inspects one of the many unique artifacts at the Museum of the Red River.

One of the museum’s most popular attractions is the Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, said Moy. According to the museum’s website, this was one of North America’s largest predators and looked very similar to a Tyrannosaurus rex.

What makes this exhibit so unique is that the complete skeleton of the Acrocanthosaurus atokensis was unearthed less than twenty miles from the museum by amateur paleontologists Cephis Hall and Sid Love in 1983. The nearly 40 feet long cast of the original bones is a must-see.

Other exhibits in the museum include a large collection of Native American baskets, hundreds of stone tools and points, and pottery from the earliest people in the area.

According to Donald Herron, the museum also offers workshops on traditional basket making and other programs to inspire a love of art and natural science. More on these programs and exhibits can be found online at museumoftheredriver.org.

Admission to the museum remains completely free. Donald Herron said that they are able to keep admission free due to the Herron Foundation and private donors. The museum also offers memberships and other support opportunities. You can find out more about how to contribute to the museum on their website.

The Museum of the Red River is located a short drive from Beavers Bend State Park. Inside the park is a museum called The Forest Heritage Center. This is another place to learn more about the history of southeastern Oklahoma.

If you want to experience even more southeastern Oklahoma history, there are several museums in the surrounding area. The Fort Towson Historical Museum is filled with local and historical memorabilia donated by residents of the area. In Durant, Oklahoma, you will find the Three Valley Museum. It houses a collection of artifacts regarding the history of Bryan County.

Museums offer us the unique experience of stepping back in time to preserved history. Sure, you can read about the history of the area, but there is nothing quite like seeing and learning from actual pieces of history. The next time you are planning a visit to southeast Oklahoma, don’t forget to make a stop at one of these museums and learn what shaped this part of Oklahoma.

Trails for Running and Hiking

Trails for Running and Hiking

By Christian Toews
From the Aug. 2020 Biskinik

Beavers Bend State Park and the surrounding area is known for many outdoor activities. Whether it’s fly fishing one the Mountain Fork River, taking a boat out on Broken Bow Lake, or driving to one of many scenic lookouts, this area of Oklahoma has something for everyone. Hochatown, Oklahoma borders the state park and attracts visitors from all over the country with its luxury cabins and restaurants.

One of the lesser known features of this area is the extensive trail system. There are over 22 miles of trail between two main locations. Both of these locations have trail options for experienced or occasional hikers. Whether you want to go out on a one-mile hike, or spend all day on the trails, both the Hochatown and Beavers Bend portions of Beavers Bend State Park have options for you.

Hiking these trails, you will see amazing scenery and stunning wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see white tailed deer grazing or a bald eagle flying overhead. This is truly some of the most beautiful country in America.

This trail system is broken into two main areas. The first is within the Beavers Bend portion of the state park. This area has approximately 12 miles of trail. The second area is located near the Lakeview Lodge in the Hochatown portion of the state park and has another 10 miles of trail available for use.

There are a few different trailheads for the Beavers Bend trails. A comprehensive map can be found at the Forest Heritage Center and Museum located in the park. You can also find a trail map online at www.forestry.ok.gov/hiking-trails-in-beavers-bend-state-park.

Lakeview Lodge trail
Sara Adams runs along the Lakeview Lodge trail in the Hochatown section of Beavers Bend State Park.

There is a single trailhead for the Hochatown portion of the trails that makes it easy to access. The trailhead is located just outside of the Lakeview Lodge and features a map of the available trails. While both of these locations are great for hiking, the Hochatown trails also allow biking. More detailed descriptions and maps of both of these trails can be found on alltrails.com. Simply search for Beavers Bend State Park when you visit the site.

Kendall Carter is an Ada, Oklahoma resident who has hiked the Skyline trail in Beavers Bend State Park. “These trails feel like you’ve left Oklahoma without having to drive five plus hours. It’s the best part of Oklahoma in my opinion and I will definitely go back,” he said.

Another activity that has gained popularity in recent years is trail running. Many runners who typically run on the road, find trail running to be a new challenge. “I love the feeling of running on trails. You have to pay attention to where your foot is landing; it makes the time fly by. I also like the challenge of running up steep climbs and feeling like I got a really good workout in,” said Sara Adams, a runner who has spent time on these trails. With multiple loops and distances, the trails in Beavers Bend State Park offer variety and are great for trail running.

Whether you’re hiking with family, or looking for a challenging trail run, this Oklahoma state park has a trail for you. The next time you need to get away to a breathtaking location, look no further than the southeastern part of Oklahoma. If you would like more information about the different amenities within Beavers Bend State Park, visit www.travelok.com.

Did You See That

Did You See That?

By Christian Toews
From the May 2020 Biskinik

Bigfoot. Some say this creature is only a figment of our imagination, a legend created by misidentifying an animal or naming a shadow. Other people wholeheartedly believe in the existence of an unidentified species living throughout North America and possibly in other locations around the world.

According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), sightings of Bigfoot in North America go back as far as 400 years. While the sightings happen in different locations and have slightly different descriptions, many of them claim the same basic features. Bigfoot is almost always described as a very tall, hairy, creature resembling a primate walking on two feet. Another distinct feature are his big feet which leave footprints often discovered in remote areas.

The eastern part of Oklahoma is a hotbed for Bigfoot activity, especially in and around the Ouachita Mountains and Ozark National Forest. While the majority of sightings in North America happen in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, according to BFRO, Oklahoma has had over 100 reported sightings. The Ouachita and Ozarks cross the Oklahoma border into Arkansas and there have been over 100 sightings in the Natural State as well.

The Mid-American Bigfoot Research Center (MABRC) is an organization with the goal of proving Bigfoot’s existence and to educate the public on Bigfoot, according to D.W. Lee, Executive Director and founder of the organization. The MABRC has turned into a global organization with members all over North America and even as far as Australia and New Zealand, Lee said.

Lee is an army veteran and Cherokee tribal member who lives near Stilwell, Oklahoma. He says the majority of Bigfoot activity in Oklahoma takes place within the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations. He attributes this to the dense forests, rivers, and large, undeveloped parts of these areas.

Every year in Stilwell, Oklahoma, the MABRC hosts the Bigfoot Symposium. This is a gathering of Bigfoot experts and enthusiasts alike. The event is an opportunity for people who might be interested in Bigfoot to learn more. It also provides an opportunity for researchers to share evidence and collaborate on investigation, said Lee.

The difficulty in researching a creature whose existence has yet to be proven is sifting through all of the hoaxes, Lee explained. He said the MABRC is focused on the science of Bigfoot and doesn’t really focus on the sensational side of Bigfoot. “We like to try to educate the public about the true information that’s out there. You have so many TV shows that are putting garbage out there and nobody knows for sure what is real and what’s not real,” he said.

One thing is for sure, if you visit anywhere in the southeastern region of Oklahoma, you will see Bigfoot. At least on a sign or a souvenir t-shirt.

Bigfoot has become part of the culture in places like Broken Bow, Hochatown, and Honobia. Honobia’s relationship with Bigfoot runs so deep that they hold one of the largest Bigfoot festivals in this part of the country. Every fall, people from all over the world gather to attend the Honobia Bigfoot Festival.

Bigfoot Map

Jolly Winsor is the president of the Honobia Bigfoot Organization, the group responsible for organizing the annual Bigfoot festival. “There have been stories about the Bigfoot in this area for many years with numerous sightings and encounters,” said Winsor.

“This area has had several researchers that have come to look and observe the Bigfoot. We have had TV programs come and do shows here. We also have a group that conducts Bigfoot expeditions throughout the year here,” Winsor said in an interview with the Ada News.

While some gather to share Bigfoot stories and research they have conducted, many people attend the festival for the novelty. With food, music and vendors, there is something for everyone. The festival now attracts around 5,000 people every year, according to Winsor.

While you are not guaranteed to actually see Bigfoot in the wild at the festival, you are sure to have a good time.

If you travel southeast from Honobia, you’ll find the towns of Broken Bow and Hochatown. These towns are located near Beavers Bend State Park. This area is another part of Oklahoma that has multiple sightings of Bigfoot according to BFRO.

Dian Jordan is a local cabin owner. She also holds a PhD in sociology and is an online professor of sociology at the University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, TX.

Jordan said that her family has been in the area for generations and she remembers hearing stories about Bigfoot as long as she can remember. She bought her first cabin in Hochatown in 1999. She said many people who have stayed in her properties report strange things around the area. “We’ve had campers in the cabins all the time that talked about hearing noises and seeing strange things in the woods,” she said.

Jordan said she has never seen Bigfoot, but she believes he could be out there. “Bigfoot is bigger, stronger and more forest wise than we are. The Choctaw Nation is full of difficult terrain. Bigfoot loves this area,” she said.

Janet Cress is the owner of a store in Hochatown called Janet’s Treasure Chest. You can find an entire section of her store dedicated to Bigfoot. “We have bigfoot shirts, stickers, pens, just about anything you can think of,” she said.

Cress said she grew up in Hochatown and stories of Bigfoot have always been around. “As long as I can remember, there has always been the story about Bigfoot. It’s something that has always been here,” she said.

She went on to say that people come in her store all the time and share stories about seeing Bigfoot. There was a sighting on Broken Bow Lake that was talked about all around the area in 2019, she said.

The Choctaw Nation area in Southeastern Oklahoma has grown more popular in recent years. People are traveling from surrounding cities and states to visit the pristine country it has to offer. From trout fishing on the rivers to hiking in the mountains, Oklahoma has some truly unique gems to uncover. So, the next time you are in this area, keep an eye out, you never know what you will find.

Hiking Trails

Hiking Trails

Let’s face it: while treadmills are convenient, nothing really beats a long, beautiful walk through the glory of nature. When you’re ready for the hike of a lifetime, Choctaw Country is where you want to be. Get your cardio in amongst trails of every kind, for every kind of person – whether you like to run, bike, or simply walk a trail where you can get “lost” in a wonderful way.

Hiking

If you’re looking to get the full experience when hiking, staying at your favorite trails’ park is a must. Each of our state parks have miles upon miles of trails to travel. Heavener Runestone Park is a great spot to not only travel, but also to get a good view of history. Then, if that doesn’t satisfy your hiking needs, you can always wander to over Broken Bow – where you’ll find trails that turn into even more trails!

Hiking

Don’t forget about McGee Creek, with some trails that go for miles at a time, challenging even the most experienced hiker. But don’t let that intimidate you – remember, there are trails to match every level! Even if you take the easiest route and hike the small trails, the beauty of the parks is unrivaled by any other area around.

Fly Fishing in Broken Bow

Adventure/Thrill-Seeking Around Broken Bow

Broken Bow is famous for miles around for its incredible cabins and all the beautiful scenery in this wonderful town. Stay in any style of cabin – with all the amenities you prefer, or just rent a simple cabin to fall asleep amidst the peaceful sounds of nature. Start the next day off with a hearty breakfast at any one of Broken Bow’s many eating establishments to get you through the incredible adventures you’ll have that day!

Now that you’re here, unleash your inner-adrenaline junkie and head straight for Rugaru Adventures! And once you’ve conquered land – venture into another world below the water’s surface by scuba diving in Broken Bow Lake. When you’re ready to wind-down a bit, stop by the Hochatown Petting Zoo for some hands-on up-close-and-personal time with some amazing animals. And we hope you brought your fishing pole from Atoka! Broken Bow sports some of the best fishing spots for miles around.

Finally – it’s time to eat! Lucky for you, the Broken Bow area offers plenty of amazing restaurants, like Grateful Head Pizza, Abendigo’s Grill & Patio, and Rock Bottom Boyz BBQ. But don’t limit yourself to these places – feel free to get out there and discover an incredible restaurant on your own!

Travelling with some who don’t have as big a “wild side” as you? We’ve got ’em covered. Remind them of all the breweries in the surrounding areas they can visit. Sometimes, just kicking back and relaxing with something cold, foamy and delicious while the others get their “rush” is a very good thing.