If you’re looking for adventure in southeastern Oklahoma, there are three instructions you should follow:
- Read this article and make your reservations.
- Pack hiking boots, fishing poles, sunscreen and bug spray.
- Head east to Broken Bow for days filled with outdoor excitement.
To get to Beavers Bend Resort Park, which is just northeast of Broken Bow, head east on I-40 to exit 240A toward McAlester (this is a partial toll road, so plan accordingly). Take exit 16 on OK-3 Toward Antlers to get into Broken Bow. From there, it’s just a few more miles on OK-259A to arrive at Beavers Bend Resort Park.
The Beavers Bend Trip Overview
At Beavers Bend Resort Park in southeast Oklahoma, you’ll find over three thousand acres of outdoor activity—from hiking, biking, fishing, boating, floating, horseback riding and so much more.
With towering trees, clear flowing waters and a wooded, rugged terrain, this outdoor lover’s paradise features more activities for families than most theme parks do. And the bonus? “Beavers Bend is a popular park for a reason,” said Keli Clark, marketing coordinator for Oklahoma State Parks. “It’s just breathtakingly beautiful. It is part of the Ouachita and Kiamichi Mountain ranges and it’s full of lush vegetation and includes the Lower Mountain Fork River.”
If you’re headed to the wild southeast portion of Oklahoma, plan to stay a few days. And in the end, you may decide you never want to leave!
Fun on the Water
At Beavers Bend Resort Park, trout streams are stocked year-round. Adults and kids can try their hand at the park’s two catch-and-release trophy areas, and the Mountain Fork River also provides excellent fishing opportunities.
Flowing from the base of Broken Bow Lake, the Mountain Fork River is full of native Oklahoma fish like smallmouth bass and perch, but it’s also a friendly river to canoe or kayak on. “This park has a lot of family-friendly activities,” said Clark. “In the Riverbend area of the park, you can take canoes or bumper boats and float the Mountain Fork River, or you can just swim and enjoy nature.”
The Riverbend area also has rental yakanoes (a combination kayak and canoe), paddle boats, traditional canoes and roped off swim areas. Due to the clear waters of Broken Bow Lake, this area is also a favorite for scuba divers. On the lake, families can try jet skiing with rentals available as well. “The river area has some platforms designed for handicapped accessibility, but they are also popular places to fish from,” said Clark.
Fun on the Land
Beavers Bend Resort Park’s miles of hiking trails attract not only day hikers, but the serious hiker as well. To challenge the entire family, try tackling the David Boren Trail, which includes 16 miles of hiking trails and four miles of multi-purpose/mountain bike trails. This trail brings you across creek bottoms, over mountain ridges, through heavy forest and through areas so remote it will be hard to remember what civilization looks like. For hikers not wanting the full 16-miles, there’s good news—this same trail can be broken down into a series of short or long hikes.
“Beavers Bend is great for hiking or backpacking,” Clark said. “The area is just so beautiful to go through.” The newly renovated Skyline Trail is one of the park’s oldest trails and offers a treat for experienced hikers. Skyline Trail was closed for several years due to a conflict over land ownership and flood damage that occurred in 2009. During refurbishment, a three-tier waterfall was discovered that is worth seeing. The trail covers seven miles.
Other family-friendly trails include:
- Forest Heritage Tree Trail: This looped trail begins and ends at the Forest Heritage Center Museum. The trail starts downhill from the large Indian sculpture and travels to Beaver Creek, along the creek and over a covered bridge and loops back to the museum. This trail is marked by white paint on the trees. Approximately 1.1 miles. Level of difficulty: fairly easy to walk, but you do have a couple of climbs.
- Beaver Lodge Nature Trail: This is a one-way trail, so when you reach the end, you’ll have to backtrack. It is a wide and easy trail suitable for families, but a short section of it has suffered flood damage. Park officials suggest following the wide trail until it becomes too narrow and/or steep before turning back. Approximately 1 mile total length. Level of difficulty: easy to walk except for aforementioned damaged areas.
- Cedar Bluff Nature Trail: Starts across from Dogwood Campground and should be walked clockwise. Families can start on the left and turn right at each junction. The trail is marked with blue on white blazes on trees, and hikers are urged to stay on the trail and avoid shortcuts. Occasionally, the creek floods, making the lower part of the trail somewhat hazardous. Approximately one mile in length. Level of difficulty: Both easy grade and a hill climb.
- Pine Ridge Nature Trail: Almost a figure-eight trail that loops back to the beginning. Starts across from the park’s tennis courts and continues right. You’ll venture through hardwood forests, a sewage lagoon (don’t swim here!) and across a mountain ridge. On the way back, you’ll explore forest and floodplains. Approximately ¾ mile. Level of difficulty: fairly easy to walk, two up-hill and two down-hill grades.
Celebrate Local History
Families shouldn’t pass up the chance to visit the Forest Heritage Center, located four miles from the park entrance, which brings to life the history of forestry in Oklahoma. “It showcases the forest itself, but also how to use the resources in the forest,” said Clark. “It’s a great place that showcases art like woodworking, paintings, sculpture and more.”
Visitors to the museum can view the 14 large dioramas depicting Prehistoric Forests, Caddo Indians, Papermaking in the South, 1940 Lumbering and Forest Appreciation. Each diorama has a taped narration to help learn about the topics.
Other exhibits include chainsaw carvings, a 100-year-old log cabin from the Kiamichi Mountains, a Forest Wood Art Gallery and traditional woodworking tools. The Center opened an exhibit in 2003 that honors the wildland firefighters who risk their lives each year. A bronze sculpture honors Jim Burnett, the first firefighter in the state to lose his life fighting wildfires.
Sports and More
Just past Dogwood Campground at Beavers Bend, near Swim Beach, you can find additional activities include tennis, volleyball and mini golf. The Beavers Bend Depot & Stables, located in Area E, near the entrance of the park, gives families the ride of a lifetime on a one-third scale replica of the C.P. Huntington S.P. train built in 1863. The train runs twice an hour, chugging through Wahoo Hill and through a tunnel at Beavers Bend Resort Park.
Be sure to stop by the stables for a one-hour trail ride through 2½ miles of the park. Children under age five must ride with a parent, but older children can ride their own experienced horse. After your ride, visit the Beavers Bend gift shop to refuel on candy and ice cream while shopping for souvenirs.
Parents and their young golfers may also enjoy a visit to the nearby 18-hole, par-72 Cedar Creek Golf Course, with manicured fairways that wind through pine, oak and wooden roughs, all teaming with wildlife. Go 12 miles north of Broken Bow, then three miles east on Golf Course Road. It is the kind of golf course one would imagine finding in a pristine, pine-laden wilderness. Hours are 7:00am–8:00pm in season, 8:00am–5:00pm off-season. Call Cedar Creek at 580-494-6456.
Kiamichi Owa-Chito Festival of the Forest
If you plan your visit in June, you are in for a treat! Held the third weekend each June, this three-day festival stages an annual Festival of the Forest to display the beauty, heritage and culture of Kiamichi Country.
Featuring forestry competitions like ax throwing, double-buck sawing and crosscut contests, the festival brings back “the good ole days” of early twentieth century Oklahoma. Competitors vie for the title of “Bull of the Woods” and “Crew of the Woods.”
Log rolling and juggling chainsaws are both part of the All American Lumberjack Show, performed live at the festival. You’ve seen it on TV, but now you can see quick carving, boom runs and stock sawing live.
Where to Stay:
Normally, hotels and non-park lodging are options, but with so many cabins, campgrounds and private cabins available, traditional hotel lodging is scarce in this part of the country.
- Lakeview Lodge. At the park itself, families can rest after a fun-filled day at the Lakeview Lodge, which offers a breathtaking view above Broken Bow Lake. This lodge has 40 rooms, each featuring cable TV, coffee service and other features. The lodge presents a free complimentary breakfast each morning by the grand fireplace or the Balcony Terrace. The Lodge is located at Hwy 259 North, Steven’s Gap Road, in Broken Bow. Call 580-494-6179 for room rates or reservations.
- Beavers Bend Cabins. The park also has 47 cabins located in forest groves overlooking the Mountain Fork River. The cabins accommodate from two to six people, and all have kitchens, dining utensils, linens and central heat and air. Most cabins have fireplaces. None have telephones or televisions, so be sure to bring your own entertainment.
- Private cabins. For information on privately-owned cabins in the area, visit www.beaversbendlodging.com or www.beaversbendcabins.com. Both sites offer photos and information on numerous cabins for rent in the area, in case the park cabins are filled up. Also, check for privately owned rental properties at www.mccurtaincountygetaways.com.
- Roughing it. RV and Tent Camping sites are available in Beavers Bend State Park, with 15 primitive camping areas, six semi-modern areas with electric and water hookups, and two modern areas. Happily, all the sites have toilet facilities and three have full comfort station/shower facilities.
- Hotels. If a hotel is your only option, chain hotels are available in the neighboring towns of Idabel and Broken Bow.
Get Your Family Prepared to Fish
Besides stocking up on the fishing poles, portable chairs, bait and sunscreen, be sure you “get legal” to fish too. Annual fishing licenses are required for all residents of Oklahoma 18 to 64 years of age, unless exempt (costs vary). Residents who will turn 65 years of age or older during the current calendar year are eligible to purchase a resident senior citizen lifetime fishing license; contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters for information.
To trout fish in the Mountain Fork River, you must have a trout stamp added to the fishing license. Children under the age of 16 are still required to have a trout stamp to fish in the Mountain Fork river; the cost is just $5. Call 405-521-3851 or visit www.wildlifedepartment.com for information on fishing licenses
Close Up on Beavers Bend Folk Festival and Craft Show
On November 13-15, the Forest Heritage Center Museum will host its annual Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show. This festival and show attracts over 17,000 visitors for turn-of-the-century arts and crafts and to enjoy the beautiful fall colors in the forest.
This year, nearly 70 exhibitors and vendors will feature crafts and skills ranging from herbalists to lye soap making, candle making and woodturning. Quilters will also be showcased.
Children can have their own fun listening to famous storytellers in the courtyard or petting animals at the petting zoo. A children’s activity area lets kiddos try their own crafts by making handmade paper puppets.
The Beavers Bend Folk Festival also welcomes the country’s best folk musicians. Mountain Dulcimer workshops are offered each day in the courtyard and visitors can learn the skill from instructors Keith and Darlene Vanderbosch.
Food vendors include pork-o-bobs, patty melts, chicken tacos, smoked turkey legs, Indian tacos, cowboy tacos and burgers. Wash it all down with country cider or homemade root beer.
For more information, call 580-494-6497 or visit www.forestry.ok.gov/folk-festival.
- Let Them Be Eaten By Bears By Peter Brown Hoffmeister (Perigree, $16) So your kids (or you) are more interested in playing computerized versions of fishing or camping than getting into nature and doing it for real? This book will baby-step your kids (or you) into the idea of the GREAT outdoors instead of the scary or strange outdoors.
- Get Your Kids Hiking By Jeff Alt (Beaufort, $14) A hiking guide for parents to get kids into the fun. The chapters and checklists are broken down into age ranges to make it easily accessible for all, and the expert author (he’s even hiked the Appalachian Trail) has plenty of information to share
Heidi Brandes is a freelance writer based in Oklahoma City with 15 years of journalism experience. She is an avid traveler, adventure hound and professional belly dancer. Visit her website at www.heidewrites.com.