Enjoy Fall Foliage Hikes at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area

As fall is well established and the temperature becomes colder in Oklahoma, the foliage drapes itself in the beautiful colors of yellow, orange and red.

One of the best spots to enjoy it is the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Well situated in south central Oklahoma close to the US I-35 at 85 miles from Oklahoma City and 140 miles from Dallas.

The park opened its doors on April 29, 1904, with the support of Orville H. Platt, a senator of Connecticut. The Platt National Park named after him eventually became popular with its multitudes of minerals and fresh water springs which some people believed to have therapeutic effects. On March 17, 1976, the park combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area and renamed as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in honor of the Chickasaw tribe for their role in the establishment of the park.

Today the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is still one of the most famous parks in Oklahoma with 1.3 millions of visitors each year. Through the summer, the area is frequented by thousands of people who want to enjoy the freshness and beauty of the place.

In opposition, during the fall, the park is almost empty. It becomes easier for one to enjoy the treasure of nature. At the crossing between the western mixed-grass prairie and the eastern woodlands, the park provides unique flora and fauna.

With more than 20 miles of hiking available, hikers are welcome. Even if is it possible to use the car in the Platt Historic District, hiking is still the best option to discover the varieties of the fall foliage. More than 60 species of tree are presents including sycamore, oak, hickory, walnut, pecan…

“No matter what time of day, as you round a corner the sunlight might put a glow on a bit of color that will delight your senses. Hiking or walking any of the many trails allows visitors to glimpse more details within the foliage colors,” said Lynnette Cartter, interpretive division of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Before starting the adventure, a stop at the Park Administration center in Sulfur to get all the information and maps needed for the excursion is a plus. Then two principal options are available.

The first is to go to the southeast area from the Park Administration center and follow the Travertine Creek hike for 1.5 miles. One will admire the Artificial falls such as Little Niagara (that as a Niagara only by name!). Then a stop at the Travertine Nature center will provide one with more information about the local wildlife, geology and history. To complete this first excursion one could continue the hike over 1.2 miles into the woodland up to Antelope and Buffalo water springs.

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Travertine Creek/Olivier Rey

The second option is to go to the southwest by the Flower Park in the direction of the Veterans Lake. This is the most popular part of the park composed of the main minerals water springs situated at different locations along the way. All these springs are remarkably well preserved with different constructions such as a pavilion or basin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The CCC is also called the Roosevelt’s “Tree Army”, in reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt who created the corps during the Great depression to provide jobs to millions of young unemployed. Between 1933 and 1940 the Company 808 totally embellished the landscape of the Platt National Park by building facilities, planting 800,000 trees and much more.

Then the walk continues along the Bison pasture, for a better chance to watch one of the buffalos the best place is on the east part of the trail. “The bison in our pasture numbered twelve last week, but we have had three calves born since that count! “ Cartter said.

Further to the south, the Bromide Hill provides a wonderful view of 360° for miles, which is definitely the most suitable location to watch the sunset.

After arrived at the Veterans Lake the most courageous could pursue the trail over 2 miles to Buckhorn until the vicinity of the Lake of the Arbuckles.

In addition of the wonderful flora, it is possible with a minimum of patience to see an amazing fauna. “The best way to observe wildlife at any time of the day is to pick a spot away from the road, sit down, be patient and be quiet. Then, watch and listen to what may show itself – mammal, reptile, bird or insect,” Cartter said.

For those who prefer hiking with a guide, the rangers organized a “nature walk” at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday throughout the year from the Travertine Nature center.

The park provides six campgrounds (on reservation) and facilities well located around the lake of the Arbuckles and the Platt historic district. Besides hiking various activities are possible such as swimming, watersports, fishing, hunting or boating. All this activities are restricted.

For more information about the park go on http://www.nps.gov/chic/index.htm.

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