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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma

Western prairie meets eastern forest in the land of healing waters.

by: Karen Gibson

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Contact Information:

Chickasaw National Recreation Area Box 201 Sulphur, OK 73086 580/622-3165

Location: Chickasaw is located in south central Oklahoma, 75 miles southeast of Oklahoma City and 120 miles north of Dallas, Texas.

Getting There: From Oklahoma City, take I-35 south about 75 miles. Turn onto OK 7 and drive east to Sulphur.

Seasonal Information: The park is accessible year-round, but summer temperatures can reach an uncomfortable 100 degrees F with high humidity in the afternoons. Thunderstorms are common April through July. The best times are autumn and spring when the weather is more comfortable. If you're looking for solitude, the lowest visitation occurs in the winter, especially January and February. Winter temperatures are mild ~ rarely dropping below 32 degrees F for more than two or three consecutive days.

Wildlife: Whitetail deer, roadrunners, coyotes, bobcats, and armadillos join an amazing array of birds in this ecotone, or transition area, between the prairie grasslands of the west and the deciduous forests of the east. Cardinals and goldfinches share the sky with scissor-tailed flycatchers and meadowlarks.

Alert forest visitors can be rewarded with glimpses of beaver, gray fox, skunks, hawks, and raccoons.

White bass, largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, walleye, channel catfish, blue catfish, bullhead catfish, and flathead catfish are all popular catches.

Insects: The area is home to scorpions and tarantulas.

Plant Life: Chickasaw NRA is home to more than 600 species of plants, including prickly pear, Buffalo grass, Indian grass, yucca, sumac, oak, sycamore, hickory, walnut, and pecan trees.

Facilities: There are six developed campgrounds in the park.

  • Rock Creek, Cold Springs, and Central campgrounds are located in the springs area of historic Platt District.
  • Buckhorn, The Point, and Guy Sandy campgrounds are located in the Lake District around Lake of the Arbuckles.

All sites have tables, grills, restrooms, and water. Utility hook-ups and showers are available in the Buckhorn campground. There are no reservations except in Central campground, which is for group camping only.

The Travertine Nature Center is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, Memorial Day through Labor Day; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily after Labor Day.

Parking: Parking is available at individual campgrounds throughout the park. The best parking areas for day-use are located at the Travertine Nature Center and Veterans Lake.


  • No permits are required.
  • Campsites range from $8 to $14 per night.


  • Camp only in designated sites for a maximum stay of 14 days.
  • Bicycles and pets are prohibited on trails east of the Travertine Nature Center. Otherwise, pets must be leashed at all times.
  • No swimming or wading is allowed east of the Travertine Nature Center.
  • Climbing on rocks and ledges is prohibited.
  • Waterskiing is permitted from sunup to sundown everywhere except Veterans Lake. Skiers must be accompanied by two people, one to operate the boat and one to watch the skier.


  • The water from all springs, except Hillside Spring, is drinkable after treating.
  • During periods of high rainfall, the three low water bridges on Perimeter Drive will close.
  • Copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes live here. They are rarely seen in the daytime, but stay on the trails and carry a flashlight at night.
  • Portions of the park are open seasonally for hunting.

Leave No Trace: Hike on established trails and avoid trampling creekside vegetation.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: A Chickasaw National Recreation Area map is available at the park headquarters.

Other Trip Options:

  • A 77-foot waterfall is just 20 minutes away at Turner Falls Park (405/369-2988).
  • Sulphur (405/622-2824) provides many quaint bed-and-breakfast choices such as The Artisian Bed and Breakfast and The Olde Bathhouse, dating back to the 1800s. Brick's Restaurant and Quail Hollow Depot are well-known restaurants in Sulphur.

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Preston white
Feb 01, 2012

Secret Garden Cottges are located on the park boundarie. I have stayed there and It is a nice comfortable place.

Preston white
Feb 01, 2012

Secret Garden Cottges are located on the park boundarie. I have stayed there and It is a nice comfortable place.


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