Summer’s Last Hurrah
Summer's Last Hurrah

Summer’s Last Hurrah

By Amanda LaMora

As the southern summer begins to reluctantly fade, it reminds me of a John Denver song – sometimes it takes a lifetime, sometimes I think I’ll never see the sun again. The end of sun-bleached days and balmy nights is in sight, which is either a blessing or a curse – or both – depending on how you look at it.

Still, the tantalizing allure of one more summer adventure beckons from the horizon. One last dance with cheerful blue skies in the tangle of wild grass. One more day spent skimming across the lake with wind-torn hair and the perfume of sunscreen. One more chance to create a bright memory to sustain us as a burning ember through the colder months.

If you feel the insatiable pull to break away for one last moment of fun in the sun, these are the three best opportunities for a great summer sendoff in Choctaw Country:

1. Bring Your Family to the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival
Located on the historic Choctaw Capitol Grounds in Tuskahoma, the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival has it all: carnival rides, sporting events, a 5K run, arts & crafts vendors, live entertainment and incredible food. It’s also home to the Choctaw Nation Royalty Pageant and Chief’s annual State of the Nation address. Best of all, admission is free and so are the rides!

2. Book a Lakeside Waterfront Getaway
If you’re like me, you can never have enough time on the water when it’s hot outside. Fortunately, there are many places in Choctaw Country offering waterfront rentals, so a cool dip is never far away. Book a beautiful lakefront home in Carlton Landing for a picturesque family getaway, cool off at the Lake Carlton swim beach or outdoor pool at Robbers Cave State Park, or kayak down the Mountain Fork River when you book a luxurious cabin getaway at Beavers Bend State Park.

3. Escape to Choctaw Casino & Resort–Durant
Why is a casino on this list? One word: AQUA. It’s a three-acre paradise complete with an adults-only pool, a family-friendly pool with waterslides, private cabanas, outdoor food venues and three outdoor bars – not to mention poolside parties almost every weekend featuring a live DJ, giveaways and photo ops. It’s also exclusive to hotel guests at Choctaw Casino & Resort–Durant, so be sure to book your stay.

Spring Break Road Trip

Get More Out of Your Spring Break Road Trip

By Amanda McCarty

After slogging through months of cold and darkness, we can’t help but anticipate the return of spring. Our bodies seem to be hypersensitive to the gradual transition as the days unfold their hours like petals of light, bringing with them the hint of warmth in the air that coaxes the trees to once again dress themselves in green.

Yes, it is February. But I think now is the perfect time to bring our cabin-fever fantasies to life and start planning our escape. In keeping with the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”

This Spring Break, I’m preparing to escape to the open road. There’s nothing quite as freeing as the wind in my hair, the gentle warmth of the early spring sun on my cheeks and my favorite road-trip playlist cranked to max volume.

You may (or may not) be surprised to find the keys to a memorable road trip along the asphalt corridors snaking their way throughout Choctaw Country. The winding tarmac beckons us to make our own adventures . . . to find our own happiness.

Here are a few destinations worthy of being added to your route:

1. Choctaw Cultural Center | Durant
If museums aren’t typically your thing, hear me out – because you’d be remiss to leave this amazing destination off your travel route. This isn’t your average, sterile hallway full of relics. It’s a fully immersive way to experience the story of the Choctaw people, and all the senses are invited to the party.

2. Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton
Ever heard of Jesse James? Of course you have. But did you know one of his favorite hideaways was in the stony crevices of the Oklahoma wilderness? The infamous cave he often called home is still there, just on the other side of a steep climb, along with many other caverns and trails just waiting for those brave enough to discover their secrets.

3. Talimena National Scenic Byway | Talihina
What would a road trip be without gorgeous scenery? Full of serpentine curves, lush foliage and stunning views of the Winding Stair Mountains, it’s no wonder this byway has been ranked #1 in Oklahoma. Peppered with historic towns and scenic turnouts, this is a part of the trip where you won’t be able to put down the camera.

4. Heavener Runestone Park | Heavener
You don’t have to travel overseas to explore an authentic glimpse into Viking history. No one is quite sure how or why, but somehow the legendary men of the northern seas found their boots on Oklahoma soil. The evidence of their passage – eight runes deliberately carved into sandstone – is worth seeing with your own eyes.

5. The Hochatown Experience | Hochatown
You’ll often hear people gushing over all the fun they had in “Broken Bow,” but what they’re usually referring to is Hochatown – a buzzing, picturesque town along the shores of Broken Bow Lake. Sample a perfectly crafted flight at Mountain Fork Brewery, “spill the tea” with your bestie at Girls Gone Wine, grab a slice and jam out to live music at Grateful Head or make your way through The Maze at Hochatown. It’s a one-stop shop for fun and entertainment.

Rock Climbing

For the Love of the Climb

By Amanda McCarty

I was once a climber. As a child I would climb to what I referred to as the “tippy-top” branches and dangle upside-down by my knees. The sight of this would surely have sent my mom into the throes of a panic attack, but that’s just how life was when we were kids. We explored the world unsupervised and lived to tell the tales.

I would venture to guess we all started our lives as climbers. We climbed over fences to play with childhood neighbors. We climbed the outside of the playground equipment at McDonald’s, giving no thought to the posted signs warning us not to. We climbed over furniture when the floor was lava. We climbed through windows when playtime involved secrets that must be kept.

For those who grow to pursue rock climbing as adults, “the climb” takes on a new meaning. It becomes more about conquering the physical and mental challenges brought on — challenges unique to each climb. It’s tackling what shouldn’t be possible, and screaming, “I did it!” when the summit is reached. It’s seeing what you’re capable of and the feeling of accomplishment when your doubts are proven wrong. It’s connecting with that inner child who still loves a good climb. Not to mention, it’s a great workout — one you just can’t duplicate within the confines of a traditional gym.

I’d like to say I’m still a climber, but sadly that part of me was lost somewhere along the way. That said, I’m willing to bet there’s a climber still inside of me — and all of us — just waiting to be invited out to play.

With so many opportunities in southeastern Oklahoma, it’s a possibility that deserves to be explored.

Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton, OK
With the massive amount of boulders and rock formations pushing their way up through the surrounding landscape, it’s no wonder Robbers Cave is one of the more popular sites for climbing in southeastern Oklahoma. Here, you’ll find nine routes from which to choose, with options for trad, top-rope and boulder climbs for all skill levels.

It’s also a great place to land when the climb is over, offering 26 cabins and multiple sites for both tent and RV camping. While you’re at Robbers Cave, be sure to explore the myriad of activities for further entertainment, including hiking and equestrian trails, mini golf, canoe rentals, cave tours, cane pole fishing and so much more.

McGee Creek National Scenic State Recreation Area | Atoka, OK
The area around McGee Creek is known for its bouldering opportunities, which is great if you don’t want to haul a bunch of gear into the forest. It’s just you and your determination keeping you gripped to the face of a rock that’s witnessed the coming and going of millions of generations.

It’s also a beautiful place to camp and features hiking and equestrian trails as well as boat rentals on the nearby McGee Creek Reservoir.

Crag Climb | Broken Bow, OK
If you’re looking for a great introduction into the sport of climbing, Crag Climb is the perfect place to begin. This state-of-the-art indoor climbing gym offers a safe environment to explore the basics of climbing, with access to members of the climbing community for training and advice. But it’s not just for beginners — Crag Climb offers courses from VB-V12 (beginner to expert) as well as climb packages, memberships, party packages and more.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore everything Broken Bow has to offer while you’re in town. From fly fishing, mountain biking and hiking trails to wineries, ax throwing and the annual Bigfoot Festival, there are adventures for everyone just waiting to be had.

Fall Fun

Fall Fun

By Christian Toews
From the Oct. 2021 Biskinik

Southeastern Oklahoma is a great place to visit all year long, but Oklahoma’s fall has a unique appeal. With mild temperatures, changing leaves and outdoor adventures, there are more reasons to visit Choctaw Country during this season than you can count. Let’s look at some activities and places to see this fall.

One of the most exciting places to visit is Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, Oklahoma. This state park has a lot to offer, from hiking, camping, fishing and rock climbing to storied history. The state park gets its name from the outlaws who used the cave and surrounding area as hideouts.

One of the best ways to experience what it was like during that time is a horseback ride through the park. Fall is the perfect time to take a ride with Robbers Cave Stables. This guided horseback riding business is located inside the state park and offers an experience for everyone.

You can find the perfect experience to enjoy this park on horseback, from day rides to overnight camping trips. Codyjames Cook is the stable’s manager and son of the founder, who started the business ten years ago. According to Cook, they offer an experience for everyone, and it’s a great way to get away from the busyness of life. “You can really disconnect from everything out here. There are a lot of hiking trails and a lot of places that you can get to where the view is incredible,” he said.

Robbers Cave Stables offer many lengths of day rides. According to Cook, from a short 15-minute ride to hours exploring the landscape, there is a ride for every age group or time limit. If you want an even more immersive experience of cowboy life, you can book an overnight camping trip.

“We provide camping trips for outdoor lovers who want to sleep under the stars like a real cowboy,” their website explains. “This is a lovely escape from the big city for your family, which helps lower stress and become more social with each other. Whether you want to challenge yourself with a new experience or enhance your typical camping trip, our ranch is the place to do it.”

According to their website, you can “Ride through the historic trails that the outlaws of the past once rode. Here, you’ll sleep in an old, covered wagon while eating a cowboy steak dinner. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that bring us the most joy, and that’s what we are all about here at Robbers Cave Stables.” For more information and for booking a ride, visit

Southeast of Robber Cave State Park, you’ll find another breathtaking Oklahoma State Park.

Beavers Bend State Park offers a unique beauty only found in the eastern part of Oklahoma. There are many things to do, like fly fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing or kayaking, ATV riding and so much more. For many, a horseback ride is a perfect way to spend a fall afternoon.

You can see many types of wildlife and experience one of the most beautiful parts of Oklahoma.

Beavers Bend Depot & Trail Rides is conveniently located inside Beavers Bend State Park and offers many rides a day.

According to their Facebook page, “Guided trail rides are offered starting at the top of each hour. The ride will take you through 2 1/2 miles of scenic Beavers Bend State Park Game Reserve. Expect to see some of the native wildlife such as white tail deer, squirrel, fox, etc. The ride lasts approximately 45 minutes, but please allow at least an hour to complete the ride.” If you want more information on these rides, check out their Facebook page at

Platter Flats Pumpkin Patch offers a variety of activities for every age to enjoy this fall.

If horseback riding isn’t your thing, there are many other options for fall activities in Choctaw Country. Maybe you are looking to celebrate fall by carving a pumpkin, going on a hayride or taking some fall family photos. If so, Platter Flats Pumpkin Patch is the place for you. Located just a few miles southwest of Durant, Oklahoma, this pumpkin patch offers more than just pumpkins. Brandi Burkhalter and her husband, Guy, opened the pumpkin patch last year.

“There are a lot of activities for the kids. We have a bounce pillow, hayride, hay slide, hay tower, a corn bin, duck races, a petting zoo, a barrel train ride, a corn maze and more. We have a food trailer this year where we will be serving food. We have several areas for adults to relax and enjoy the fall weather. It’s really a fun place for the whole family,” Brandi explained. According to Brandi, they have many people who come and take fall family photos on their property as well. “We set up several photo areas with decorations, or some photographers will go out into our sunflower field and use that,” she said.

Perhaps you are staying at the newly opened Choctaw Casino & Resort’s Sky Tower and want to add a fun family activity to your weekend. Maybe you want to spend an evening with your family enjoying the fall weather. Platter Flats Pumpkin Patch is the perfect place to celebrate the fall season. You can find more information and see upcoming activities by visiting Platter Flats Pumpkin Patch on Facebook.

There are so many ways to enjoy the fall season in Choctaw Country. No matter what your interest is, Southeastern Oklahoma will not disappoint you.

Wilburton PRCA Rodeo

Wilburton Round-Up Club Rodeo

Lasso up the family for two nights of good, old-fashioned fun at the Wilburton Round-Up Club Rodeo. Get in on the action as local cowgirls and cowboys compete for cash prizes with rodeo classics like bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping and so much more. Plus, don’t miss the parade Saturday at 10 a.m. and delicious Southern barbecue before Saturday night’s events.


What About Bob Chuckwagon Races

You ain’t never seen nothin’ like this before! The race is on – when 100 teams of horses, mules, drivers, cooks and outriders compete in a wide-open race! Four action-packed days of Wild West activities include barrel racing, pasture team roping, live music and great outdoor cooking will be a memorable event for the whole family!

Small Business Holiday Gift Guide

Small Business Holiday Gift Guide

With the pandemic’s effect still taking its toll on small businesses this holiday season, we’d like to reinforce the importance of shopping small. In our search for surprisingly cool gifts to feature, we discovered that some of the best gifts can come in small(business) packages.

Featured are five cutest small shops in Southeast Oklahoma where we’ve got you covered from jams, wreaths, metal décor and more. Let us guide you through the very best holiday gifts that Choctaw Country has to offer!

Kayterra Farms, LLC Durant, OK
The best part about Christmas is eating yourself into a food coma. So why not do it in a healthy manner? Kayterra Farms is committed to creating and producing foods that you can feel good about feeding you family. They have wonderful jams and delicious seasonal butters that are hand crafted in their kitchen. They’ve recently even expanded into a new line, pickled products!

When you buy from Kayterra Farms, you are purchasing a quality product with less sugar, more fruit and an all-natural product from pure cane sugar. With flavors from blackberry, warm pecan pie, sassy strawberry jalapeño and more there’s something for everyone!

Jams are a perfect holiday gifts for your foodie friends and family. They are the perfect for spicing up a cheeseboard or a loaf of bread.

TuffRoots LLC Idabel, OK
‘Tis the season to share the long-lasting authenticity of a TuffRoots handmade leather product. From wallets to shaving bags, you simply can’t go wrong with a classic leather gift.

What makes TuffRoots leather so unique is their high-quality products coupled with affordable prices. Using full grain leather, the strongest and most durable leather available, to create stunning products that only get better with age.

ArclightCNC Red Oak, OK
ArclightCNC produces unique and personalized custom coat of arms, family crests, trophies, home decor, and custom parts with their CNC plasma machine at affordable prices.

ArclightCNC custom designed art pieces are perfect to hang on the walls of nurseys, living rooms, patios, RVs and more!

Products are always cut from quality steel and powder coating services to prevent oxidation so your personalized artwork will last more than a lifetime!

Little Country Flowers and Gifts Wilburton, OK
Transform your front door for the season with a handmade wreath. Little Country Flowers and Gifts offers a variety of wreaths on grapevine, deco mesh and burlap that easily brightens up your home.

A variety of beautiful, custom wreaths for all seasons, Little Country Flowers and Gifts wreaths can be customized for you with your favorite colors, monogram, ribbons, team, theme and more!

Besides your front door, hang it above the fireplace or on a living room wall to spice up any room.

Paint and Chardonnay

Paint and Chardonnay Broken Bow, OK
Gift an experience this holiday season! Everyone can embrace their inner artist at Paint and Chardonnay as they offer fun, unique ways to spend time with friends and family and feel inspired.

Paint and Chardonnay offers paint and sip events with the options to paint on a variety of surfaces including canvas, glass, wood pallets, wood trays and more! Whether you’re a beginner or expert painter, Paint and Chardonnay has a variety of paintings to paint. From animals, scenic views, florals and the option to submit requests to paint.

For the month of December, Paint and Chardonnay is offering 10% off any painting. Be sure to mention #ChoctawCountry and book your reservation today!

Let’s support our local small businesses this holiday season by purchasing beautiful gifts from independent businesses based in Choctaw Country. Hurry up and slow down, the holidays are fast approaching!

Jeep Invasion at the Park

Jeep Invasion at the Park

All Jeep owners and enthusiasts are invited to attend the Jeep Invasion in the Park event held at Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton. Bring your Jeep to the park, and hit the trails marked off for beginners, or challenge your wheels to the more challenging pathways. Difficulty levels vary depending on rainfall.

Rocks Worth the Climb

Rocks Worth the Climb

By Christian Toews
From the July 2020 Biskinik

The sport of rock climbing has gained in popularity in recent years. With indoor climbing gyms opening across the nation, more people are being exposed to the sport.

According to the Climbing Business Journal, the commercial climbing industry grew at a rate of 6.9% in 2016, 10% in 2017, and 11.8% in 2018. Rock climbing’s recent surge in popularity is reflected in the decision to add the sport to the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

Sarah Toews climbing at Robbers Cave State Park
Sarah Toews makes a complicated move while bouldering in Robbers Cave State Park.

Indoor climbing gyms have become popular in part because they offer the experience of climbing without dealing with the elements of the outdoors, but most climbers will agree, there is nothing like climbing on real rocks outside.

If you don’t live in Oklahoma or haven’t explored some of the state, you might be surprised that people are climbing here. While the majority of the state is made up of prairies and plains, Oklahoma has some areas that are great for climbing, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma holds two of the best places to climb within the state.

Ryan Jumper at Robbers Cave State Park
Ryan Jumper looks at his landing spot as Sarah Toews makes sure he doesn’t fall after landing.

Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton, Oklahoma is known for being an excellent place to explore the outdoors, take in amazing views, and it’s also a destination for rock climbers. With its huge sandstone rock faces, many climbers love to “top rope” in this area. Top roping offers the rock-climbing experience with all the rewards but minimal risks.

Top roping, simply put, is climbing a rock face with the climbing rope always anchored above you. Much like an indoor gym, you have someone who belays the climber. The belayer takes the slack out of the rope above the climber and then lowers the climber to the ground when they have completed the route. If you fall, you only fall a short distance, minimizing the risk of injury. Top roping is good for beginners but requires a lot of gear. You need harnesses, ropes, helmets, and other gear, depending on the rocks.

Ryan Jumper climbs at Robbers Cave State Park
Ryan Jumper climbs a low overhang in Robbers Cave State Park.

Another popular style of climbing is “Bouldering.” Bouldering is rock climbing stripped down to its raw essentials. Leaving behind ropes and harnesses, bouldering only requires climbing shoes and a bag of chalk over safety mats or “crash pads” as climbers call them. The challenge is to climb short but tricky bouldering “problems” (a route or sequence of moves) using balance, technique, strength and brain power.

Bouldering is a very popular option in climbing because of its simplicity, safety, and the ability to hang out with other climbers while challenging yourself. “I love bouldering because it’s challenging but relatively simple. You just need a crash pad, your shoes, and a few friends. My favorite part of bouldering is the problem-solving aspect. The route is short, but a simple change in your foot position can either make or break your success,” Said Rachel Toews. Toews is a Durant, Oklahoma resident and avid climber.

McGee Creek State Park
Sarah Toews tops out after completing a route in McGee Creek State Park.

A second bouldering location within the Choctaw Nation is Mcgee Creek State Park near Atoka, Oklahoma. This state park is located on the southwest edge of the Ouachita Mountain Range. Dallas, Texas locals first started developing here in the early 2000s, and many of the classic climbing routes have long been established. Much of this information hasn’t been published or made public but a guidebook is currently in development and in its final stages that will include McGee Creek bouldering, according to McGee Creek State Park offers many outdoor recreation opportunities including water activities, camping, hiking and fishing in addition to rock climbing.

Rachel Toews climbs at Robbers Cave State Park
Rachel Toews climbs above her crash pad in Robbers Cave State Park.

Both of these rock-climbing locations are listed on This website (and mobile app) is the definitive guide to rock climbing routes and locations. With over 220,000 routes listed, you can find climbing locations across the United States and around the world. If you would like more information on climbing at Mcgee Creek or Robbers Cave state parks, you can visit this website to find precise information on climbing routes, difficulty level, and location of each route. If you do make it out to one of these locations, be sure to wear the proper safety equipment when climbing and follow all safety practices within the State park.

Maybe you are an experienced climber who would like to try some new routes, or you have always wanted to get into the sport; either way, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has something for you to discover and enjoy.