The weather is finally cooler, and you can feel the pull of the open road calling your name. It beckons you to leave your cares in the dust as you barrel toward the next adventure. To propel yourself toward an ever-distant horizon in search of serpentine tarmacs and breathtaking scenery. To lose yourself, and in so doing, to find yourself again.
There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of flying by the seat of your pants on a motorcycle. And there’s no place quite like Choctaw Country to ride the open road. These are our top three picks for a memorable autumn adventure:
1. Talimena National Scenic Byway
This one’s at the top of the list for good reason. One of the most widely recognized roads in the state, the Talimena National Scenic Byway is known for its winding curves and stunning overlooks. If you’re riding through in October, be prepared for a conflagration of turning foliage, crimson sunrises over a quiet sea of fog and vistas specifically designed for you to capture a perfect shot against the mountainous backdrop.
If you’d like to extend your stay, Talimena State Park offers a variety of campsites amidst the beautiful Ouachita National Forest. In nearby Talihina, you’ll find a quaint, historic downtown brimming with shopping opportunities and cozy lodging. And stopping by Pam’s Hateful Hussy Diner, a favorite of motorcycle enthusiasts, is a must.
2. Highway 259 Through Broken Bow and Hochatown
The area around Broken Bow and Hochatown is a world of its own – full of every conceivable opportunity for adventure and recreation. Highway 259 will carry you into the heart of the action, with plenty of scenic stops along the way.
This 22-mile stretch of road technically begins in Heavener, but if you begin your journey 13 miles north in Poteau – around October 20 and 21 – you might catch the Poteau Balloon Fest. This annual celebration features food vendors, a petting zoo, helicopter and monster truck rides, bull riding, and – of course – tethered balloon rides.
Once you’ve made your way down Highway 59 to Heavener, be sure to swing by Heavener Runestone Park for a glimpse at the large sandstone markings of unknown origin. And if you’re here on Saturday, October 7, you’ll be treated to craft vendors, food trucks and free live music at the Music on the Mountain festival.
Leaving Heavener, the byway will continue to carry you along the edge of the Kiamichi Mountains toward the Arkansas border, offering tranquil views of verdant forests and rocky outcrops. It may be a relatively small stretch of road, but it’s definitely worth the journey.
It all started with one of those school programs where you got a free pizza after reading so many books. I must have been about eight years old the first time I curled up on the couch with a thick paperback of ghost stories and lost myself in a world of unearthly ghouls and pale phantoms in the night. Soon, I was bringing home “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and every “Goosebumps” book I could get my hands on.
These stories of terror inevitably kept me awake some nights, and I’d burrow under a hot blanket with a sacrificial foot exposed in a futile attempt to cool off. But I always found myself going back for more – the tales of Poe, Rice, Lovecraft and Blackwood weaving themselves into the fabric of my reality as I grew older.
I know I’m not alone in this fascination with the strange and unusual. There’s an exciting sort of thrill to being spooked. As the skies darken with the turning of the seasons, unseen things creep beneath the fallen leaves. Spectral shadows dance just beyond the periphery of the tangerine glow of candlelight. And we’re reminded of the beauty of the night.
What better place than the ancestral forests of Choctaw Country to celebrate the beauty of this spooky season? Make your way to our top three must-see experiences . . . if you dare:
1. Autumnal Equinox Walks at Spiro Mounds Spiro Mounds is a sacred site that dates back to prehistoric Native American life. Built by the Caddoan people who lived in the area from about 900-1450 AD, the relationship these mounds share with the changing of the seasons is never more apparent than at the solstice and equinox celebrations. If these ancient mounds could speak, I wonder what stories they’d tell. Fortunately, if you’re into supernatural stories, a local archaeologist will share tales of unusual happenings associated with the mounds on your guided tour during the autumn equinox on Saturday, September 23.
2. Hugo Pumpkin Festival It’s just not spooky season without pumpkins, but there’s more to this celebration than a lovely stroll through the pumpkin patch. From hayrides, bounce houses and barrel trains for the kiddos to scavenger hunts, pumpkin launching and mechanical bull rides for the adults, there’s fun for all ages – and I don’t even think that covers half of the activities at this action-packed event. Plus, don’t miss your opportunity for an up-close and personal experience feeding the beautiful elephants of the Endangered Ark Foundation, the beneficiary of all proceeds from this family festival.
3. Honobia Bigfoot Festival & Conference Whether you’re a true believer or just Squatch-curious, there’s no denying the mystery of the remote foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains, full of misty apparitions, boggy moans and eyes belonging to God-knows-what in the distance. One of the most anticipated events of the season, admission to the Honobia Bigfoot Festival is free and features craft and food vendors, live music, spooky campfire stories, and bounce houses for the kids (for an additional $5). If you’re a serious Bigfoot enthusiast, the conference is only $10 and boasts Sasquatch experts of all kinds, including renowned Bigfoot researchers, authors, TV and radio personalities, and podcast hosts.
Chances are, if you haven’t been to Broken Bow or Hochatown, you at least know someone who has. You may have even covetously perused your friend’s highlight reel on social media as they documented a journey of outdoor adventures, culinary exploration and relaxation in the beauty of Mother Nature.
So, is it worth all the hype?
Short answer: yes!
Long answer: yes, and here’s why.
Hochatown isn’t just for couples looking to cozy up in a romantic cabin getaway. It’s also an amazing place for families to reconnect, and with the kids still out of school, there’s no better time to explore this exciting destination than summer. Conveniently located about three hours north of the DFW metroplex, a trip to Broken Bow is the perfect weekend getaway if your family is suffering from a little summertime cabin fever.
Ready to create your own family highlight reel? Spruce up your itinerary with our top stops in the area:
1. The Maze of Hochatown Navigate your way through over 29,000 square feet of twists and turns under a newly installed canopy to shade families from the sun. Keep your eyes peeled for even more fun at the maze – a mini golf course is currently in the works and due to open soon!
2. Hochatown Escape Games Collaboration. Communication. Creativity. An escape room is an exciting way to foster all these attributes in your family circle, offering a fun opportunity to rely on each other’s strengths as you race against the clock to solve the mystery of your escape.
3. Hochatown Rescue Center & Petting Zoo Get up close and personal with the cutest creatures of the animal kingdom. This petting zoo is sure to be a family favorite, featuring everything from reptiles, birds and farm animals to more exotic inhabitants, including a kangaroo and a camel.
4. Hochatown Amusements Satisfy your need for speed with a thrilling race around the go-kart track, putt your way through an 18-hole mini-golf course, or fuel up for more fun with hand-dipped corn dogs, funnel cakes and more!
5. Beavers Bend River Floats Featuring tandem and single kayaks and canoes, Beavers Bend River Floats offers the perfect way for anyone to experience the beauty of Mountain Fork River. After being shuttled to the drop-off point, it’s a peaceful 2.5-mile trip downstream back to their shop and only takes about an hour.
6. Abendigo’s Grill & Patio Coffee shop by day, entertainment venue by night, plus all the meals and drinks in between. This one-stop-shop for dining, entertainment and souvenirs is a must-see when you visit Hochatown.
7. Rugaru Adventures Have a family of daredevils? Rugaru Adventures is your go-to for outdoor excitement, featuring thrilling ziplines through the stunning scenery of Broken Bow Lake and SWINCAR off-road tours through the surrounding forest.
8. Beavers Bend Depot & Trail Rides Take a ride through the mid-nineteenth century on a 1/3rd-size replica train from 1863 or hit the equestrian trails through the timeless forest surrounding Beavers Bend State Park. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop for a sweet scoop of ice cream before you head back to reality.
9. Bandits ATV & Boat Rentals If you want to experience Beavers Bend State Park to its fullest potential, you’ll need the proper gear. Bandits ATV & Boat Rentals holds the key to unlocking all the outdoor fun with UTV and pontoon rentals for whole family.
10. Beavers Bend Mining Company From dinosaur fossils and gemstone digs to mini-golf and a pirate-themed play area, this hands-on approach to fun is a must for families of all ages.
11. Bigfoot Axe Throwing The minimum age here is 10, so this one’s for your older crew. But this unconventional stop promises to be a blast for the whole family!
You don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to appreciate a nice meal on a secluded patio somewhere. There’s something about eating beyond the confines of four walls that elevates the spirit as well as the meal.
Outdoor dining brings intimacy to the table. It can make an evening meal more romantic or turn a business meeting into something more laid back. It opens a space for us to shed our own walls in the unrestricted air. To pass ideas around the table like a basket of freshly baked bread as laughter flows at the pace of a heavy pour of wine. Not to mention, enjoying a meal outside almost always comes with a better view – a tapestry of vibrant greens and mellow blues woven together with the soft susurrus of leaves overhead and the familiar caress of the passing breeze.
The truth is, if there’s patio seating and the weather is right, I’m eating outside.
The area around Broken Bow Lake is a haven of patio dining hotspots. In fact, I’m pretty sure almost everywhere you go in Hochatown is going to have outdoor seating because it’s such a beautiful area. But a list of “everywhere” wouldn’t be helpful. So, here are a few of the more noteworthy places, all of which happen to be pet-friendly. Whether you’re just passing through or just passing the time, these patios are guaranteed settings for memorable experiences.
1. Abendigo’s Grill & Patio I mean . . . “patio” is in the name. Do I need to say more? I will, though, because this place has it all: coffee bar, tap room, gift shop, live music and an amazing menu. Abendigo’s is all about the atmosphere and this one has all the good vibes.
2. Buffalo Grill Specializing in barbecue and burgers, Buffalo Grill is an ideal location for a casual hangout with friends and family. Choose from picnic tables or a covered patio and get in on the fun with outdoor yard games, drink specials and live music on the weekends.
3. Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room If you’re passing through Hochatown, it’s practically required you visit Grateful Head. Featuring artisanal pizzas, craft brews, live music and a gift shop full of groovy merch, it’s a chill place to fill up and mellow out.
4. The Eat Out Going to The Eat Out is kind of like attending a neighborhood barbecue – everyone is welcome and, please, make yourself at home. Outside, you’ll find a large yard set up for games like cornhole and disc golf with a central firepit featuring nightly bonfires and s’mores.
5. Beavers Bend Brewery This brewery is home to some incredible craft brews, but there’s more here than froth and hops. With outdoor activities like cornhole, Jenga and Connect 4, plus live music and a hot dog food truck, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
There’s no better time than now to be outside. To skim your fingers across the crystal blue of a cloudless sky and comb tendrils of grass with your toes.
I love the way nature seems to congregate in a unified celebration of these sun-saturated days of late spring. The way the light conjures life from the very ground as sprouts rise to meet the day, awoken by the sun to vibrant shades of fuchsia, saffron and periwinkle.
In our own ways, we all reach for the sun. We push ever-upward toward the promise of something brighter, of growth and new beginnings. Our spirits brighten at the touch of light as our own colors swirl within us until we are happy like yellow and blooming like dandelions, ready to be carried off by the breeze on some hopeful adventure.
Just where that adventure unfolds is completely up to each of us. And Choctaw Country is full of carefree, outdoor activities worthy of the journey.
1. Motorcycling Touring To hit the open road with nothing between you and the sky but the roar of wind in your ears is one of the many rewards of motorcycle touring. If you have yet to explore Southeastern Oklahoma on your motorcycle, you’ve been missing out on some of the most idyllic byways in the area. Lucky for you, we’ve mapped out the most scenic routes: the Durant, Hochatown and Carlton Landing trails.
2. Fishing There’s just something meditative about spending a day on the water trying to hook the perfect catch, and Choctaw Country is brimming with amazing locations to cast your cares away. Lower Mountain Fork River at Beavers Bend State Park is a prime location for fly fishing, attracting anglers from miles around in search of the perfect trout. If you come back later in the season in search of bass, be sure to cast your line at Lake Texoma near Durant – one of the best lake locations for striper fishing in the United States.
3. Ziplining Catch a zipline at Rugaru Adventures in Broken Bow, and you’re in for a wild ride full of stunning scenery as you soar through the treetops with a bird’s-eye view of the forest surrounding Broken Bow Lake. Prefer to keep both feet on the ground? Check out their SWINCAR tours – a new, sustainable way to off-road.
4. Stickball Historically used as a method of settling disputes without the cost of war, stickball is an important part of Choctaw culture. Modern-day stickball is currently rising in popularity with annual tournaments being held across the nation. Visit Poteau in May, and you’ll be fortunate enough to witness one of these action-packed events at the Poteau Stickball Tournament.
5. Hiking This list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning all the amazing trails throughout Choctaw Country waiting to be explored. Robbers Cave State Park is one of my favorite places to get lost; between the fascinating history which earned this park its name and the diverse terrain of rocky hillsides and caves, it’s a place that fosters imagination and wonder. Another great place to hike is at Talimena State Park, where the trails are surrounded by stunning scenic views.
As the calendar turns the pages of another chapter in the year, we find ourselves lost in the business of spring. It’s a season marked by renewal and a transition toward the light, and it practically vibrates with its own energy of growth and productivity. If you find yourself exhausted by all the spring cleaning, change and preparation that come with this season of revitalization, you’re not alone.
When life starts to feel busy and hectic, I think it’s best to shake things up a bit by placing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. If you’re not native to Oklahoma, there’s another world to discover just on the other side of the Red River. A world that says, “Hurry up and slow down.” We might just find taking the time to slow down could lead us to feeling refreshed and inspired for new adventures.
First, you have to ask yourself: What does relaxation look like to me? Maybe it’s unwinding with a velvety glass of your favorite wine, lost in conversation with a close friend under a canopy of viny branches and tufts of cottony clouds. It might be escaping to a cabin where the world seems to simultaneously shrink and expand, your universe condensed to nothing but the surrounding rustic walls nestled in a vast galaxy of ancient trees and wild valleys. It could even be something as straightforward as a day at the spa, melting under the fluid touch of an expert massage therapist and lost in waves of peaceful music and aromatherapy. It’s up to each of us to discover what works for us.
So, relax. Take a deep breath. Find your center. Here’s where to start:
1. Book a Spa Day Of course, the hero of the ultimate relaxation experience belongs to spas, and The Spa at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant lives up to this expectation, cape and all. It’s a virtual bath of the senses that will leave you with feelings of peace and tranquility flowing through every pore. With services including invigorating body treatments, heavenly massages and customized facials, plus all the accoutrement of a full-service hair and nail salon, after just one trip to this slice of paradise, you’ll be planning your next visit … and the next.
2. Visit a Winery If you’ve never visited a winery, you may have this preconceived notion of a pretentious place full of snobbish people — I know I did before my first winery experience many years ago. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. If your ideal day of relaxation involves a refreshing vintage and memorable conversation amid the beauty of Mother Nature, these places were made for you. Choctaw Country is home to several incredible wineries, including Blue River Valley Winery and Crystal Creek Winery, both conveniently located near Durant, Whispering Meadows Vineyards & Winery in downtown McAlester and Fish Tales Winery & Bistro in the gorgeous, forested hills of the Hochatown area — just to name a few!
3. Escape to a Cabin Sometimes, there’s nothing more relaxing than shutting the rest of the world out and escaping to a remote cabin in the woods. It’s a place where you can make deeper connections with the people you hold dear and appreciate the beauty in the mundane miracles of this beautiful planet without all the usual distractions. Hochatown is home to some of the most sought-after cabin escapes in the area, including Broken Bow Cabin Lodging, Beavers Bend Luxury Cabin Rentals, Broken Bow Lake Cabins and more.
Autumn is undeniably one of the most celebrated seasons, and it’s no mystery as to why. The cooling temperatures beckon us outdoors, and our lungs fill with the crisp breath of a new season that washes away the stale tang of summer.
Humming with the vibration of the change around us, every aspect of our lives seems to be aligned with this spirit of metamorphosis. Our wardrobes become layered with cozy flannels and oversized hoodies. Even our palates change as we seek out the warmth of spiced breads and pumpkin-flavored anything.
If this beautiful celebration of change and “letting go” could be perfectly encapsulated in an idealistic bubble, you’d find it in Talihina, Oklahoma. Talihina was made for fall. And if you’ve never had the chance to experience its picturesque views and cinematic scenery, I’ve got four reasons why you should make this your year:
1. The Views Cruising through the Talimena National Scenic Byway is a must if you’re searching for ‘gram-worthy photo ops and back-roads vibes. Snaking its way through the Winding Stair and Rich Mountains, this unique area is one of the most sought-after places to view autumn foliage in all her majesty. The undulating landscape of peaks and valleys is suffused with tones of crimson, amber, goldenrod, ochre, tangerine and a myriad of other colors whose names have yet to be pinned down. Along the way, you’ll find charming historic towns with welcoming cafés and one-of-a-kind shops.
Many are under the misconception that you have to travel to the northern part of the country for views like these, but they’re much closer than you think — right here in southeastern Oklahoma.
2. The Trails Maybe it’s our sense of wonder at the transitioning beauty around us, but there’s something about autumn that brings to life a spirit of exploration in us all. There’s no better place to explore the unknown than the hiking paths that furrow their way through the wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest.
Due to the mountainous topography, the difficulty ratings on these trails begin on the moderate side. But as long as you’ve got the proper gear, and maybe a little hiking experience under your belt, they’re well worth checking out. The Talimena State Park to Hells Hollow trail is a good icebreaker with 7.8 miles of rocky terrain perfect for birdwatching or bringing along your furry companion. The Ouachita Bohannon Trail ups the intensity, cutting 17 miles out-and-back into Buffalo Wallow Mountain and offering ample locations for backcountry camping along the way.
3. The Camping Gathering with loved ones around the glow of the fire, fingers sticky with the melted remnants of s’mores. Sleeping beneath the comforting canopy of ancestral tree branches and shimmering starlight. Surviving off the land — or whatever you packed in the cooler. Camping was made for making memories.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “camper,” Talimena State Park has so many options, you just may find yourself converted to a life of dreamy stays in the wild — whatever your version of that may be. For those who prefer the comfort of a springy mattress in a climate-controlled environment, you’ll find 10 RV sites with 30-amp electric and water hookups. For the camping purist who doesn’t mind a little ash in their dinner (I call it “seasoning”), there are seven designated tent sites and even more options for backcountry camping.
4. The Events Is there anything more enchanting than a festival in honor of our favorite season? Known locally as the event of the season, the Talihina Fall Foliage Festival is a must-see celebration that just keeps getting better every year.
Here, you’ll find a cornucopia of entertainment for the whole family including live music, unique shopping opportunities, craft exhibits, car shows, pony rides and a Wild West reenactment. There’s also a bountiful harvest of delicious food and hot, spiced beverages, and the Talimena National Scenic Byway lies nearby amidst the breathtaking scenery.
The fading sunlight of shorter days gives cool breath to the shadows as autumn whispers her impending arrival, and suddenly, camping season is upon us. Like many, I grew up camping and cultivated a love for it that will last my entire life. But have you ever sat and wondered precisely why we do this? Why do we abandon our possessions and comfortable, air-conditioned homes to sleep in the dirt?
When we camp, we give ourselves the space to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty we constantly take for granted. Gathered in a circle around the hypnotizing dance of fire, the conversations become more intimate as stories are told and laughter is shared. The songs of crickets keep tempo in the background as the perfume of woodsmoke lifts the chords of the guitar into the close, velvet sky. The stars seem to have multiplied and hang heavy in the night like pale sentinels over the wilderness.
Here, everything is connected. Everything has a purpose. Dead leaves, fallen to the ground in tones of amber, are given new life as kindling. A slender twig foraged from among the undergrowth becomes the perfect roasting utensil. Pants are the new napkin. The branches overhead become our refuge, and a level stretch of earth, spongy with rotting leaves and moss, becomes the perfect bed.
As the night plunges on into the wee hours, the fire is reduced to a steady glow of coals, pulsing amidst the ash like so many beating hearts. Dusty and worn, we retreat to our tents, blanketed with the comfort of the connections we’ve made — to the earth, ourselves and each other — and the memories we know we’ve created.
I believe these experiences awaken within us something wild — a primitive kernel of humanity we all carry at our core, buried beneath the layers of business casual, iced americanos, mortgage rates, credit card bills and all the other nonsense we’ve accumulated in our pursuit of civilization.
When we strip everything else away, we connect with the ancient wisdom of our ancestors — a wisdom that tells us gratitude is found in making do with less. Comfort is found in snuggling against the cold. Accomplishment is found in struggle. And joy is found in sharing these experiences with the ones we love.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons: It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. – Walt Whitman
Beavers Bend State Park | Broken Bow, OK I don’t think it’s possible to say enough good things about this particular section of Oklahoma. With a myriad of hiking and biking trails, fishing holes, kayaking opportunities and campgrounds amidst stunning scenery, it’s simply an outdoorsperson’s paradise.
This makes Beavers Bend the perfect place to camp, whether you enjoy roughing it tent-style, setting up your home-away-from-home on an RV pad or retreating to the comfort of a yurt along the cool banks of Mountain Fork River. This area also features an incredible selection of privately owned cabins for those who prefer to keep four walls and a roof between themselves and their outdoorsy experience.
Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton, OK The Robbers Cave area seems to have been designed with the heart of an adventurer in mind. From cave exploring and horseback riding to mini golf and waterslides, there’s excitement to be found in every corner of the park.
Here, you’ll find campsites for groups, tents, RVs and even sites with accommodations for horses. This is another great area to rent a cabin and also features a 20-room lodge available for larger groups.
Talimena State Park | Talihina, OK Nestled among the slopes of the Winding Stair Mountains, Talimena State Park offers breathtaking views, whether you’re hiking through Ouachita National Forest, hitting the ATV trails or simply passing through.
This park has the usual offerings of tent and RV setups, but it’s also the perfect backpacking destination. Many of the trails are long, requiring multiple days to complete on foot, and the fairytale forest offers an enchanting place to relax for the night.
When it comes to hobbies with multiple benefits, mountain biking is one of those that ticks all the major boxes. Is it good for you? Check. Will you feel great while doing it? Check. Will it challenge you? Check. Is it a total body workout? Check. Most importantly, is it fun?
From the moment you grip the handlebars, the distractions of the outside world seem to fade away, disappearing in a cloud of dust and mud in the wake of your tires. The landscape flies by in a torrent of greens, blues and browns—shadows cascading through your periphery. And then it happens: the meditative pull of the trail has taken over, and you’ve surrendered yourself to living by the moment.
Each trail offers its own challenges, demanding you take up the gauntlet. As you navigate the nuances of each twist and turn, your movements are decided in an instant—and yet, they aren’t decided at all. They happen, and you hope you have the skills to gracefully adapt.
Leaning into the tread-worn curves, squeezing the brake handles, flying through the high-speed burns. All of these decisions become second nature, bringing with them a finer appreciation for the smallest details. Your legs burn as they pump through the inclines, and you’re rewarded by the welcome relief of soaring downhill. The whir of spokes creates a melody along with the angry buzz of rubber gripping the terrain and the crunch of gravel underneath. A thrill of exhilaration floods your senses as your bike catches air after a sudden rise in the rocky path.
It’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of ride, but in the end, it’s a journey well worth the adventure.
Lake View Lodge Trail | Beavers Bend State Park Offering three different loops from which to choose, the Lake View Lodge Trail is like having three trails in one. If you’re fairly new to the world of mountain biking, or if your skill level is anything less than intermediate, Loop One is the perfect option with just under half a mile of moderate terrain. Looking for more of a challenge? Loops Two and Three bring more to the table with 1.75 miles and 4 miles of trail, respectively.
Carnasaw Nature Trail | McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area When you’re ready to up your biking game, the Carnasaw Nature Trail allows you to spend a little more time honing your skills. Marked by rock formations and moderate inclines, this 6.7-mile loop offers a beautiful view of the rolling Oklahoma woodlands just outside Atoka. Just be sure to check in at the Ranger Station before hitting the trail.
Old Military Trail | Ouachita National Forest With 11.5 miles of terrain and a 1,600-foot elevation gain, this out-and-back trail near Talihina is for those who are ready to really test their limits. If you’re craving an even greater challenge, the Old Military Trail meets up with Ouachita National Recreation Trail, offering a combined total of about 23 miles. True to Talihina’s reputation for gorgeous scenery, this trail delivers with its fairytale forest views, water attractions and gaps through the trees revealing peaceful slopes and valleys. This trail is not for the faint of heart and should only be approached by the experienced biker.
As the sharp winds of spring breathe life into the earth and the temperatures slowly rise, the pull to lose oneself in slopes of some wild hillside becomes irresistible. When the wilderness calls, a hiker must answer.
Stocking your pack with the necessary supplies. Shaking your boots free of the dusty remnants of the last adventure. The hunt for the trailhead. All these things stir a certain excitement and anticipation, vibrating one’s bones to life in a way of renewal, the way of spring. Nothing is so satisfying as the return to the wilderness.
Your first true breath of freedom is drawn as you step foot onto the trail. The forest envelops you in a protective shroud, closing off the outside world. Time flows differently here and nothing is taken for granted. The finest details of life become magnified as crucially important: The shiver of wings from the treetops as the birds mark your presence. The smell of damp earth. The soft crunch of dead leaves underfoot, like scattered paper bones. The feathered edges of moss catching the most vibrant green in the sunlight, blazing like tiny emerald flames against the tree bark. These are the stories of life we eternally carry, cherished as escapes later sought behind closed eyelids amidst the crowd.
As footsore and thirsty we may be by the end, departures are always made with reluctance. After all, the trail is home; the outside world by comparison is just a dull fantasy.
I’ve included a few of my favorites places to wander below. If you share that familiar ache to set your boots upon paths unknown, it is my sincere hope these trails lead you home.
I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all, the lone trail is best. I’ll never stop wandering. – Everett Ruess
Beavers Bend State Park Friends Trail Loop The Friends Trail Loop is one of those trails that has something for everyone. It’s easy enough to bring the kids or your furry companion along yet interesting enough to keep the more adventurous entertained. There is some elevation gain of which to be mindful, but overall the trail is accessible to most. It’s also a great place to hit with a pair of trail runners – if you’re into that sort of thing.
The most spectacular leg of the loop brings you along the banks of Mountain Fork River, where the water rushes noisily over a landscape of jutting rocks, as if in a hurry to depart on a journey of its own. The landscape is marked by the force of the river’s expedition, its jagged path winding busily through the distant trees.
Skyline Trail If you’re searching for the perfect day hike, Skyline Trail delivers with over nine miles of charted terrain. Marked with several steep climbs and a few water crossings, it’s a trail that keeps you on your toes. Surrounded by the dense forest of evergreens and oak, you’ll find no shortage of plant life to explore, and the breaks in the trees give way to the most stunning views of Mountain Fork River.
It’s worth noting this trail is not for the beginner hiker. Be sure to bring a few snacks and plenty of water before setting out on this one.
Robbers Cave State Park Belle Starr Loop The Belle Starr Loop is just short of two miles and offers the perfect combination of climbing and waterside views. Each step is made with purpose through a city of large stones, reminiscent of their monolithic cousins across the sea – smaller, of course, but just as ancient and humming with the tales they would tell if only they could speak. At times, the trail meets the banks of Coon Creek Lake, where a peaceful respite can be enjoyed as the water softly gurgles over the rocks. At others, the green waters of the creek can be glimpsed through the trees, silently slithering below.
The trail also features a slice of history in the form of an abandoned pump house, haunting with its gaping doorways and woodless stairs, but accessible to the courageous historian.
Robbers Cave Trail Hiking through Robber’s Cave is like traveling back in time – if one applies a bit of imagination, of course. Known as a hideout for outlaws such as Jesse James, Belle Starr and Cole Younger, one can’t help but wonder whose footsteps came before. Venturing into the mouth of the infamous cave, their stories can almost be heard echoing from the slanting stone walls.
It’s not a lengthy trail, but it is one that should be travelled slowly and thoughtfully, as the nooks and crannies unfold in a curious maze of secret passageways between the stones. The trail constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps around the end of the 19th century is full of considerable climbs for the especially adventurous, but the modern trail offers a gentler alternative to the summit, where breathtaking views offer the perfect reward.
Talimena State Park Ouachita Bohannon Trail I haven’t actually visited this trail – yet. But it’s on my list of places to explore, and as one of the most beautiful trails in southeastern Oklahoma, I felt it deserved a spot in this list.
This 17-mile out-and-back trail winds around Buffalo Wallow Mountain and boasts sensational views of the surrounding mountainsides, known for their dazzling display of changing foliage and seasonal wildflowers. The Ouachita Bohannon Trail also welcomes backcountry campers, with ample locations for the venturesome hiker or those who simply wish to extend their stay in the wilderness just a little while longer.
Fishing for trout in a mountain stream nestled in beautiful scenery is the dream of many anglers. There is magic in a running river, casting your luck on the water, hoping for a bite. Oklahoma is home to several prime locations for trout fishing, and two of the best are located within the Choctaw Nation in southeast Oklahoma.
Trout fishing is unique from other types of fishing in this part of the country. Most fishing in Oklahoma is for species of fish endemic to the local lakes and streams, while the trout are stocked in several locations across Oklahoma.
Ken Cunningham is the Assistant Chief of Fisheries at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Across the state of Oklahoma, there are only two year-round trout fisheries in Oklahoma, and one of them is right here in Choctaw Country, according to Cunningham. According to Cunningham, trout stocked in the year-round fisheries are provided to mitigate the impact on the natural fish of the river and help maintain a sustainable ecosystem.
Cunningham said there are eight seasonal trout fisheries in Oklahoma, including five lakes and three rivers and streams. He said trout love cold water, so November through March is when trout are regularly stocked in these seasonal fisheries. One of the best places to fish for trout in the winter is along the Fourche Maline River at Robbers Cave State Park. This State Park is located just a few miles north of Wilburton, Oklahoma.
Robbers Cave was given its name because it was a former hideout for infamous outlaws Belle Starr and Jesse James. Given the beautiful scenery of this area, it’s no wonder that they chose this location (OK, maybe they chose it for its secluded nature, but that is still an excellent trait for a trout fishing destination).
This area is perfect for a fishing weekend with friends and family or a day trip alone. You can pack a lunch for the day or spend the weekend taking advantage of everything the area has to offer. Some of the other things to do in and around Robbers cave State Park include camping, hiking, horseback riding, and fishing.
Another premier trout fishing in Oklahoma is the Lower Mountain Fork River inside Beavers Bend State Park. This river has some of the best trout fishing in the country. Trout can be stocked here all year, so you will find trout no matter what time of year you want to visit this area.
Photo by Christian Toews Choctaw Country is filled with breathtaking views and rivers and stream filled with trout during the season.
Many fly fishers come to this location because of the running water and large trout.
Chris Schatte with Beavers Bend Fly Fishing Guide Service said that he has fished all over the country, and this area has some of the best fly fishing in the country. It doesn’t matter how you like to fish; this area has something for you.
Joshua Richards owns Mountain Fork Outfitters and has been guiding fishing trips inside Beavers Bend State Park for years. Richards offers spin cast and Zebco style fishing and a fun time for everyone.
“I offer family fun and excitement. I make it simple and easy to where we catch the most amount of fish,” he said. Richards typically sees people catch larger fish during the colder months.
“Once it cools off, I’ve caught huge rainbow trout,” explained Richards. “Up to nine and ten pounds. They are huge.” Part of the appeal of the area is the scenery. According to Richards, the scenery is one of the reasons people come and fish.
“We have some of the best views. Everyone who comes to the area says that it’s some of the best views they have ever seen. It’s really a unique experience and unique place,” said Richards. Whether you are an angler or not, you will enjoy this area with hiking trails that lead to breathtaking vistas and beautiful ATV trails.
Only a few miles from the best fishing spots, Hochatown, Oklahoma, offers excellent restaurants, breweries and activities. Many people come out and fish for part of the day and then enjoy some downtime exploring everything the area offers.
To fish in these locations, tribal members must follow the newly updated Choctaw Nation Fish, Game and Animals Code. Tribal members are still subject to special restrictions such as hunting/fishing in wildlife management areas. For more information, visit choctawnation.com/huntingandfishing.
Non-tribal members will need a State of Oklahoma fishing license, and you must follow all the trout fishing guidelines. These regulations are found on the Oklahoma Wildlife Department’s website.
Maybe you are a lifelong angler who wants to fish in a new location, or perhaps you want to try trout fishing for the first time. Either way, trout fishing can be a great family experience, a fun time with friends, or some quality alone time out in nature.
Now is a great time to fish for trout, so don’t let the colder weather discourage you from getting out and enjoying the incredible fishing that southeast Oklahoma has to offer.
Whether you’re fishing for sport or for fun, Choctaw Country is offering a few trout fishing tips and tricks. With our knowledge from baits to behaviors, you’ll be prepared for a great day on the water in Choctaw Country!
Rods & Reels
You’ll need a good fishing rod to catch trout. Most fishing rods fall under three categories: spinning, fly and casting rods. Be sure to match the correct rod to the right reel. Spinning rods work best for catching trout. If you’re in need of a rod or reel, stop on by Man Candy Baits in Cartwright, OK. No matter if you’re a fishing enthusiast in need of some top-quality equipment or a first timer looking to get into it, Man Candy Baits friendly staff knows more than a thing or two about fishing.
Baits & Lures
Picking the best baits and lures is important for any trout fishing day on the lake. Below are three of our top picks when fishing throughout Choctaw Country. Quiver Spoon: Very light allowing you to work with the current and allows it to flutter slowly toward the bottom of the lake or stream. Tasmanian Devils: Great for casting in stream. They create fish attracting vibrations in the water. Little Nipper: The bright feathers add a bright splash of color while continuously moving in the water to provide more action to your lake day.
One of the worst things a fisher can do is alert fish of their presence. It’s important to stay stealth in the water and to work from stream edges when possible. Also, use the natural streams coverage for concealment and to avoid sudden movements.
Beware of the Current
Stream current is very important to trout fishing. The current is what brings food to trout, which means they will always hold their noses facing up the current. It’s important to cast upstream and retrieve your bait with the current.
Every day on the water in Choctaw Country can be different. The above tips and tricks are a general guideline to assist you on your day on the water. For more activities throughout Choctaw Country visit our events page. Remember to use #ChoctawCountry to share your trout fishing experiences. Happy fishing!
Beavers Bend is the place to be for the Master Woodworking Artist of the Year Competition & Exhibit. Don’t miss the talented artists who can turn a piece of dead, standing or fallen wood into a beautiful piece of art. With over 50 tree species found within a one-mile radius of the museum’s location, artists select their material from a diverse array of native woods. It’s a great family educational day and quite a site to see!
Sometimes, a weekend getaway is all you need to have a memorable and rejuvenating experience. Whether you’re traveling from afar, or just need a little staycation – we’ve got something special for every couple in Choctaw Country.
The Spa: Durant, OK A busy week can really take it out of you. Relax your mind, body and spirit at The Spa at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant. The Spa service menu has a deluxe collection of massages, facials and body treatments. The space boasts nine treatment rooms, including two extravagant couples’ suites with an Ultra whirlpool soaking tub for two and a couple’s rain shower. Then, recharge for the night in any of our 1,700 hotel rooms in our AAA Four Diamond hotel.
Hochatown Saloon: Broken Bow, OK Don’t settle for the usual night out in Broken Bow, Okla. Hochatown Saloon is a country and western themed restaurant and nightclub. With live music, cold drinks, delicious food and a great atmosphere, Hochatown Saloon is the place to be on Fridays in January! Hochatown Saloon is located at 28 Old Hochatown Rd, Broken Bow, Okla.
Ricochet: Friday, January 7 Ricochet’s distinctive musical style and intricate harmonies earned them the recognition as one of the most popular vocal groups in country music. The band continues to create great country music, sung with the distinctive harmonies that are their hallmark. Top hits include, “What Do I Know,” “Daddy’s Money” and more! Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased here.
Cody Canada & The Departed: Friday, January 14 Three bandmates and fourteen songs that blur the lines between hard-edged country, rock & roll and all the gritty sounds in between, Cody Canada & The Departed have dominated the red dirt country scene for more than a decade. Top hits include, “Lipstick,” “Sam Hain” and more! Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased here.
Both concerts start at 10 p.m. and tickets start at $20
Robbers Cave: Wilburton, OK Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton, Okla. is the perfect getaway for any adventurous couple. With an abundance of outdoor fun, Robbers Cave State Park will keep you entertained throughout the weekend.
Robbers Cave State Park offers a variety of activities including cave tours, guided hikes, ATV riding and more! Take advantage of the park’s steep cliffs while learning the art of rappelling, or venture off into the adjacent wildlife management area, featuring 3,800 acres of forested hunting ground. Lodging includes 26 cabins and a 20-room lodge, two group camps, three RV campgrounds and numerous tent camping sites.
Whether you seek outdoor adventure, an exciting night out or a relaxing getaway, we’ve got your next couples getaway covered! For more activities throughout Choctaw Country visit, choctawcountry.com/events. Remember to use #ChoctawCountry to share your photos of your weekend getaways.
The forests in Choctaw Country are some of the country’s leading locations for Bigfoot sightings, and Bigfoot enthusiasts from all over the country gather in Honobia each year to celebrate, share stories and learn more about the mysterious creature that has eluded us for generations. In addition to the popular Bigfoot Conference, the Honobia Bigfoot Festival also offers helicopter rides, arts and crafts, children’s activities, live music and storytelling. There’s truly something for everyone, so bring the whole crew . . . and watch out for Bigfoot!
A cool breeze is in the air, sunshine is plentiful and the mountains are covered in brilliant fall colors. Where can you find this picturesque experience? Right here in Oklahoma. The eastern part of the state is home to views that rival Colorado and New England when it comes to putting on a show in the fall.
The fall foliage typically peaks in Oklahoma around Halloween and stretches into early November. During this time, the state is ablaze with yellows, reds and oranges in popular fall foliage hotspots such as Poteau, the Talimena Scenic Drive and Broken Bow.
The area with the most options for viewing the beautiful colors is near Talihina, Oklahoma. One of the end cities of the Talimena Scenic Byway, this Oklahoma town is not what you expect when you think of Oklahoma’s typical prairies and plains. Talihina sits in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains that extend into Arkansas. These mountains host amazing views all year, but there is something special about seeing them light up with colors in the fall. One of the most attractive features is a winding 54-mile scenic drive through the Ouachita Mountains known as The Talimena Scenic Byway. This roadway winds along the crest of the Mountains through the Ouachita National Forest from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas. With many scenic vistas to stop and enjoy, many people will spend an entire day on the drive enjoying the views. If you’re planning to do this, be sure to pack a lunch or stop and get some snacks because there are no services along most of the drive.
If you’re planning a trip to Talihina, why not stop by for the annual fall festival? Vera Nelson is the Talihina Chamber of Commerce director and has organized the Fall Festival since it began. November 6, 2021, will be the 33rd year of the festival. The event features arts and crafts, live music, a car show, food booths, and special entertainment. She said somewhere around three thousand people visit the festival each year and come from all over the world. Nelson encourages everyone to drive up into the mountains and see the fall foliage up close when they attend the festival. According to Nelson, one of the best ways to get more information and enjoy the scenic drive is to stop by the visitor center in Talihina and pick up a Talimena Scenic Byway guidebook. You can also visit www.talimenascenicdrive.com and the Talihina Chamber of Commerce website for more information in planning your trip.
Traveling south of Talihina, you’ll find Broken Bow, Oklahoma. This area of Oklahoma is perfect for viewing the changing leaves in the fall. Beavers Bend State Park and the surrounding area have many places to drive, hike, ATV and camp, making this location an excellent option for spending time in the fall. You could ATV up to a sweeping vista above Broken Bow Lake or hike to one of the many incredible views inside Beavers Bend State Park. For more information on Beavers Bend State Park, visit visitmccurtaincounty.com and plan your trip today!
If you travel northeast from Talihina, you will find the city of Poteau. This city is home to the world’s highest hill at 1999 feet above the surrounding area. This hill is an excellent place to pack a picnic and look at the fall foliage from a unique vantage point. Poteau offers many fall activities to enjoy. On September 24 and 25, Poteau holds the annual Old Frisco Trail Fall Festival. This festival includes food vendors, music, a 5k Glow Run, a half marathon and a 15k run. You can find out more information about the fall festival in Poteau by visiting www.poteauchamber.com.
No matter which of these locations you decide to view, the changing leaves this fall, you are sure to develop a new appreciation for the brilliant colors and amazing views that Oklahoma has to offer.
Kayaks and canoes are among the most useful types of water equipment on the market. You can use them for touring, sports, exploration, whitewater adventure and more. In Choctaw Country we have numerous options to experience the water, but before you step in, here are some basics to know before adventuring out.
Know your river language. Understanding the lingo is an important part to any sport. Below are just a few common kayaking terms that will be helpful for those who are new to the river.
Blade: The broad part at the end of a paddle
Bow: The forward end of the kayak
PFD: Personal Flotation Device or lifejacket. Wear it!
Find your perfect kayak. Who knew there would be different kayaks for different types of travel? Below is a quick overview of different kayaks you may use dependent on your needs.
Sit-on-top kayaks: Sit-on-kayaks are a great choice for nervous paddlers and for warmer waters. They are usually wider and have more stability for first time/beginner kayakers.
Touring kayaks: Touring kayaks give you more control in rougher waters. They are generally a little shorter than most kayaks and are easier to maneuver when both handling and transporting.
Recreational kayaks: Recreational kayaks are suitable for the casual paddler interested in traveling on lakes and slow-moving streams. They are perfect for the kayaker who wants to paddle slowly and take in the scenery.
Check the forecast. Make sure to check all weather conditions. A little drizzle isn’t too much of a concern, though heavy rain when you kayak will make it unstable. Also, several days of heavy rain can make more turbulent waters.
Know your hand signals. Hand signals and gestures are useful to help both canoers and kayakers to communicate with each other. River can be quite noisy and distracting, below are a few simple signals to be mindful of:
Help/Emergency: Wave your paddle side to side
Stop: Hold the paddle horizontally above your head.
All Clear: Hold the paddle vertically straight up to signal ahead of you is “all clear”
Dress for water temperatures, not air temperatures. Even on the hottest of days, the water is cooler. Dress accordingly for the off chance you might flip out. A light long-sleeved shirt, water shorts and shoes. Sun is reflective off the water – so make sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses or a brimmed hat to help with sun protection.
Practice getting back in your canoe. Flipping over in a canoe is not ideal, but it happens, and everyone should be prepared. The trickiest part is both paddlers have to do the same moves at the same time when re-entering the canoe. Push on both sides of the canoe. While lifting your body outside of the water, place as much of your torso on the side of the canoe as possible.
Trying something new can be both exciting and scary. Whether you’re an expert or beginner, there’s something both simplistic and exciting about canoeing or kayaking in Choctaw Country. Hurry up and slow down-adventure awaits!
Get off the beaten path and get some mud on those tires! All you offroaders know exactly what we’re talking about! The terrains and scenery in Choctaw Country are like no other, but one of the most important rules when on an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) is following safety guidelines.
Go wild on your ATV but first, read a few safety measures and make sure you’re protected:
Always wear a helmet, googles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
Never ride on paved roads unless necessary and done safely and permitted by law. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.
Never carry a passenger on a single ride ATV and no more than one passenger on an ATV designed for two people.
Be aware of your surroundings. Bumps and mud are fun, but when you hit something unexpectedly you can get bounced right off your ride. Be mindful of your riding path and other vehicles.
Don’t ride beyond your abilities. Showing off and performing stunts and tricks you’re not trained to do is dangerous. Stick to simply riding the trails.
Pre-riding inspection. Check your tires and controls, make sure all connections and cables are intact and inspect the chain for worn links and proper lubrication before every ride.
Whether you’re getting the quad ready for the weekend or just tagging along for a ride, keep in mind that riding an ATV, while exciting, can also be dangerous. Be safe, have fun and check out our top spots for off-roading here. Hurry up, slow down and experience the beauty southeastern Oklahoma has to offer from an ATV!
Are you looking for an outside-the-box adventure that is sure to thrill? Look no further than experiencing southeastern Oklahoma in an off-road vehicle. All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and the larger Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) are a fun and unique way to access remote parts of Choctaw Country. These off-road vehicles allow you to explore areas that your traditional vehicle can’t handle, and it’s a different experience—climbing over rocks, traversing muddy spots, or making your way up steep inclines. These vehicles offer a chance to experience a little more of the unknown.
You might not know that one of the largest ATV and UTV retailers in North America is right here in Choctaw Country. Antlers Motorsports in Antlers, Oklahoma, offers everything ATV and UTV related. Jeff Lucas is an employee at Antlers Motorsports and an off-road vehicle enthusiast. He said that sales of ATVs and UTVs have increased drastically over the past year.
“Right now, we are low on ATV and UTV inventory because we are selling so many that they are sold before they even make it off the truck,” said Lucas.
According to Lucas, there is an off-road vehicle for every type of rider.
“You can find something no matter what type of riding you enjoy,” he explained.
Maybe you want to get in a side-by-side UTV with your family and drive up to a scenic location and have a picnic, or you like to get muddy on a high-powered four-wheeler. Perhaps you want a UTV that will allow you to access places that a traditional vehicle can’t take you. The off-road industry has a vehicle for everyone to enjoy.
Pine Mountain offers over 1,700 acres of wooded trails, rock formations, creeks, and campgrounds in the Kiamichi Mountains.
Billy Creek Recreation Area has many trails to explore and even connects to the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which is 225 miles, according to USDA.gov.
Another area that many people explore on ATVs and UTVs is the Hochatown, Oklahoma area. Russell and Carrie Adams own Captain’s Hideaway Powersports Rentals. They offer Jeep and UTV rentals from their location near Hochatown. Carrie said that exploring the area in a UTV is a great way to see things you wouldn’t usually see.
“We encourage people to go into the trails and see a part of Broken Bow that’s off the beaten path. It’s a great way to get out and see wildlife and scenery that you won’t see any other way,” she said.
Carrie also mentioned that it could be an excellent way to spend some quality family time away from electronics and experience the outdoors. She said that Captain’s Hideaway Powersports Rentals offers maps and guides for anyone who wants to explore the area in their own off-road vehicle. You can find more information, including availability and pricing, at their website.
You might be a seasoned off-road enthusiast, or maybe you have never felt the adrenaline rush of powering down a trail in a UTV. No matter what your skill level or interest, Choctaw Country has something to offer you. Get muddy, enjoy some family time, and explore some of southeastern Oklahoma’s beautiful country.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.