photo of The Ultimate Eclipse Experience

Choctaw Country Destinations

by Amanda LaMora

Our connection to the heavens can be traced through millennia. It seems to have become ingrained in our DNA to match the patterns in our life with the movement in the sky. To sync up with the universe.

Our beloved celestial bodies inspire us to contemplate eternity. How many lives have blinked in and out of existence under their watchful glow? How many prayers have been caught in the delicate web of astral dust? How many travelers have been gently guided by their steadfast constellations? They’ve seen the rise and fall of countless civilizations, and still they remain our constant companions.

As the total solar eclipse approaches on April 8, our connection to the movement of the universe feels almost tangible. An event like this won’t happen again in North America until 2044 – it shouldn’t be missed or taken for granted.

In addition to being in the path of totality (the 115-mile-wide path where the moon will completely cover the sun), Choctaw Country is blessed with night skies that lend themselves to incredible stargazing opportunities – the kind of stars you won’t see anywhere near Dallas. After all, the total eclipse will only last a matter of minutes. To get the most out of the experience, we recommend the following locations:

1. Hochatown
Totality duration: 4 minutes, 10 seconds
One of the most well-known destinations in Southeastern Oklahoma is also one of the closest to the center of the path of the total eclipse – meaning the duration of totality is at its greatest. The unique location surrounding Broken Bow Lake offers the best of both worlds: wineries and breweries, incredible food, and shopping opportunities, plus every outdoor adventure imaginable. Don’t let its popularity fool you though – Beavers Bend State Park ranks at a 3 on the Bortle scale (a scale ranking the darkness of an area from 1-9, with 1 being the darkest), so the stargazing, especially from your campsite, is incredibly beautiful.

2. Fort Towson
Totality duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds
A little off the beaten path, Fort Towson is the perfect location for those who just want to get away from it all. Raymond Gary State Park lies along the isolated waters of Raymond Gary Lake and offers many ways to stay in the great outdoors, with six primitive lakefront cabins, 19 RV sites and over 100 tent campsites. You’ll also find canoes, paddle boats and fishing boats for rent with plenty of prime fishing opportunities on the lake. For even more adventure, be sure to stop by the Fort Towson Historic Site for a unique look into this area’s rich history.

3. Grant
Totality duration: 3 minutes, 31 seconds
Grant is a hidden gem in Southeastern Oklahoma with the distinction of feeling somewhat remote while maintaining access to modern comforts – especially when you stay at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Grant. Get the full resort casino experience with all your favorite games, live entertainment and an exquisite steakhouse at this luxurious property in – let’s be honest – the middle of nowhere. But that’s part of what makes it such a cool destination! Plus, take advantage of their room and suite packages for the full eclipse experience.

4. Hugo
Totality duration: 3 minutes, 20 seconds
Once a popular wintering place for traveling circuses, Hugo is a small town of great curiosities, including a cemetery for past circus performers, the Frisco Depot Museum and the Endangered Ark Foundation – a retirement ranch for circus elephants featuring tours and private encounters with the gentle giants. For accommodations conducive to stargazing, check out Hugo Lake State Park with options for tent camping, primitive cabins and resort cabins.

5. Heavener
Totality duration: 2 minutes, 37 seconds
If you’re searching for a truly magical experience, Heavener Runestone Park is your destination. Named after the stone with runic carvings found in the area, this park features both tent and RV campsites in a dreamy forest setting. Book your visit on the weekend of the eclipse and you’ll be treated to a special eclipse watch party, with live music, food trucks and souvenir t-shirts!

6. Talihina
Totality duration: 1 minute, 9 seconds
Talihina has the shortest totality duration, but it certainly doesn’t have less to offer – especially if you stay at Talimena State Park. Ranking at just a 2 on the Bortle scale, the stargazing at this park is truly a breathtaking experience. And with miles of hiking and ATV trails, you’ll find plenty of other opportunities to take your breath away. For even more excitement, visit historic downtown Talihina for antiquing and unique finds.