Plan your next Road Trip
Plan your next Road Trip

Plan your next Road Trip

By Christian Toews
From the April 2022 Biskinik

When you think about taking a road trip, you probably think about driving across the United States. But what if you didn’t have to travel as far to have an incredible road trip experience? We are going on a road trip across Choctaw Country and visiting some well-known places, some lesser-known places and a few that you might discover for the first time.

Spring is the perfect time to pack up the car with friends, the kids, or your furry friend and hit the road. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy seeing along the way, Southeastern Oklahoma has what you are looking for. Within the Choctaw Nation’s borders are hidden gems that will get everyone excited.

We are going to begin our journey in the city of Hugo, Oklahoma. This destination has several unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. One of these experiences is Hugo Lake State Park. If you are car camping along your road trip, this is a perfect place to pitch your tent for the night.

This park is ideal for a day out in nature or a camping adventure, with hiking trails, fishing, swimming, and even hot showers and restroom facilities. Dustin Searles grew up in Hugo and said he enjoyed the outdoor spaces when he lived there. “There’s a lot of water around; you’re within driving distance of several lakes, and we would fish a lot and enjoy all the outdoor activities in and around Hugo,” he said. If you don’t want to camp, you can still enjoy everything Hugo Lake State Park offers by renting a cabin near the park. With several options listed on VRBO and Airbnb, this could be your next location for a weekend getaway or a stop along a road trip through Choctaw Country.

Hugo offers an assortment of local restaurants as well as fast food. Some of these local restaurants include Buffalo Grill, where their menu boasts everything from barbeque to burgers and even steak. Hugo hosts Mexican, Italian and a few popular chain restaurants such as Chili’s in nearby Grant, Oklahoma.

If you are looking for a more all-inclusive feel along your road trip, you should visit the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Grant, Oklahoma. This resort offers everything you need for a luxurious stay just a few miles from Hugo, Oklahoma. Choctaw Casino and Resort in Grant is worth the trip, with pools, bars and restaurants. So, whether you are passing through or planning to stay a few days, be sure and add this stop to your list.

Hugo also has many entertainment options, and the history of the town is fascinating. According to hugook.com, the city was founded in 1901 and named for the French novelist Victor Hugo. The town serves as winter quarters for some circus performers. It is adjacent to one of the oldest schools west of the Mississippi, Goodland Academy, founded in 1848.

Sunsets
Photo by Christian Toews
Sunsets are just better in Choctaw Country. Make sure to add watching the sunset to your list.

One of the unique entertainment options in Hugo is visiting The Endangered Ark Foundation. Their website states that the foundation “is a private non-profit dedicated to ensuring the future of Asian elephants in North America, providing a retirement ranch for circus elephants, and educating the public about this endangered species.” The Endangered Ark Foundation offers tours where you can meet the elephants, and who doesn’t want to meet an elephant? According to their website, they offer public tours of their facility on Fridays, Saturdays, and most Sundays. You can find more information and book a tour online at endangeredarkfoundation.org.

The next leg of our road trip takes us to Idabel, Oklahoma. This is a great place to stop at a Choctaw Travel Plaza to refuel and maybe grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants or fast-food options. While there, you will want to plan a stop at the Museum of The Red River. According to their website, this museum is the largest cultural institution in a 150-mile radius. The museum has many permanent art and artifact exhibits and houses a variety of temporary exhibitions. One of the most noteworthy artifacts in the museum is the cast skeleton of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis. According to the museum website, this giant dinosaur skeleton was discovered in McCurtain County and is the most complete skeleton ever recovered. You can learn more about this museum by visiting museumoftheredriver.org.

Our final stop on this leg of our road trip leads us just a short drive north of Idabel to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Nestled in the foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains, Broken Bow is a community of nearly five thousand people, according to the City of Broken Bow’s website. This area has become a popular tourist destination because of the beautiful scenery and available activities. That makes it a perfect spot for a stop along a road trip through Choctaw Country.

There are many lodging options around Broken Bow, from hotels and cabins to RV and camping spots. One of the most popular attractions in the area is Beavers Bend State Park. This park offers everything: mountain biking and hiking trails, fly fishing, ATV adventures, kayaking and canoeing, camping, swimming, a museum and so much more.

The town nearest Beavers Bend State Park is Hochatown. This area has become a popular tourist attraction with an almost unlimited number of cabins for rent, restaurants to enjoy, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, distilleries and other entertainment options. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy doing; you are sure to find something that interests you in the Broken Bow area.

To find out more information on any of these areas listed, you can visit choctawcountry.com. You can also find a comprehensive list of events and activities in southeast Oklahoma in the Pathfinder magazine linked on the Choctaw Country website and begin planning your spring or summer road trip today.

Get Taken Back by Our Museums

Get Taken Back by Our Museums

One of the most overlooked treasures within tourism tends to be the rich history and inspiration available at the local museums. In fact, Choctaw Country is loaded with many historical destinations and sites which not only give visitors a greater appreciation for the legends and myths within, but make southeastern Oklahoma one of the most unique areas in the U.S. Discover all of the museums in areas you plan to visit, and map-out your next journey.

Museum of the Red River / Idabel

How much admission would you pay to see a life-sized, 40-foot-long skeletal representation of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis — one of the fiercest meat-eating dinosaurs ever to walk the earth? Couple that with an archaeological Study Area which showcases numerous authentic Caddo ceramics ranging as far back as the Mississippian phase (A.D. 700 – 1500) all the way up to modern day examples of native artwork – how much would you pay to see all that? Put away your wallets, as admission to the Museum of the Red River is always free.

Hugo Frisco Depot Museum / Hugo

An actual railroad depot built in 1914 which serviced the area for fifty years, The Hugo Frisco Depot is now an entertaining and impressive railroad museum. Here, you can enjoy a miniature circus, study the intricacies of their model railroad, explore a Southwestern Bell switching center, and lots more. Dine in the depot’s converted baggage rooms in the renovated Harvey House Restaurant. It’s a fun, interesting, and unique experience that will leave lasting memories.

Wildlife Heritage Center / Antlers

For those with a passion for wildlife, the 3,100 square foot Wildlife Heritage Center Museum is the place for you. Located between two existing Whitetail and Fallow deer exhibits just across from “Little Peoples Park,” you’ll find a multitude of exhibits and artifacts on display with friendly, helpful, and highly educated volunteers eager to answer all of your questions. Pet and feed the local whitetail deer, and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy for yourself while the kids take advantage of the great playgrounds.

Fort Towson Historic Site and Museum / Fort Towson

Established in 1824 to guard the southern boundary of the United States, Fort Towson also served as an access point for Texas-bound travelers including Sam Houston, Davy Crockett and Stephen F. Austin. The fort served as a dispersal point for Choctaw and Chickasaw natives who survived the dreaded “Trail of Tears.” Here, visitors can see what remains of the historic buildings and experience the state-of-the-art exhibits which take adults and kids alike through the site’s incredible history.