I’m one of those people who LOVES where I came from. Since I was a little kid, I’ve found it incredibly special to live in a small, rural town of Oklahoma. The people are resilient, hard-working and kind-hearted. I’m fascinated by our history and culture, and absolutely love learning little-known facts. One of my favorite facts about Oklahoma is … it is home to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma!
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area has an incredible history. Originally, the park was established in 1902 as the Sulphur Springs Reservation through an agreement with the Chickasaws and Choctaw Nations and the federal government to preserve the natural mineral springs found in along Travertine and Rock Creek. In 1906, it was renamed Platt National Park and became Oklahoma’s only National Park!
It has been said that in the early years of the park, the CNRA attracted more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite! As the years went by, the park began to change. In the 1930’s, new infrastructure was built throughout the park and many of these changes are still in the park today. In 1976, Congress abolished Platt National Park and it merged with the Arbuckle Recreation Area becoming the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Although it was the 7th National Park created in the U.S., Platts National Park is rarely mentioned in National Park Service informational resources, but is still operated by the National Park Service.
If you think the history is cool, just wait until you see the park in person. It’s simply breathtaking. So, I’m inviting you to take in the beauty of one of south-central Oklahoma’s greatest attractions.
5 things to do at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area:
- Hike Bromide Hill
This is the perfect view point in the park. Rising 140 feet above the base of Rock Creek, it’s a wonderful vantage point of the town of Sulphur and the CNRA. While you’re in the park, take a hike at Veterans Lake, Rock Creek, the Lincoln Bridge and the Bison Pasture. Who knows? You might even see a baby bison calf!
- Camp at one of the campgrounds
Spring is the perfect time to camp at the CNRA. The campsites are never crowded and the weather is beautiful. If you’re looking for a place to stay, explore the Central, Cold Springs, Buckhorn, Guy Sandy or the Point campgrounds. Remember to always leave your campground better than you found it!
- Fish at the Lake of the Arbuckles
Grab your fishing pole and tackle box for a fishing day at the CNRA. The recreation area is home to many prestine lakes and creeks perfect for your fishing day. We suggest checking out the Lake of the Arbuckles, Veterans Lake, Rock Creek, or Travertine Creek. Visitors fishing within Chickasaw National Recreation Area must follow the fishing license requirements and licenses can be purchased at the Chickasaw Visitor Center.
- Explore Little Niagara and Vendome Well
You can’t visit the CNRA without exploring Little Niagara Falls. Created from the flowing waters of Travertine Creek, Little Niagara Falls is the perfect swimming hole to cool off on those hot summer days. Nearby is Travertine Island with stone picnic tables and benches and the Travertine Nature Center. Just a short hike away are both Antelope Springs and Buffalo Springs. But you can’t leave the park without trying the fresh mineral water from Vendome Well. It is said the water helps with your health!
- Visit the Travertine Nature Center
Stop by the Travertine Nature Center to learn about the history of the park, see exhibits of wildlife that inhabits the area and pick up a souvenir or two! The Travertine Nature Center has information about lakes, camping, trails and special events. You might even meet a park Ranger while you're there, so keep an eye out.
We hope you have a great time exploring the Chickasaw National Recreation Area this summer! And remember, use #VisitChickasaw on all your photos. Who knows? We might use it on our social media.
(Originally published on April 9, 2018. Updated on August 2, 2021)