Exploring Southwestern Oklahoma: Lake Murray, Turner Falls Park & More - MetroFamily Magazine
MetroFamily Magazine

Where OKC parents find fun & resources

Exploring Southwestern Oklahoma: Lake Murray, Turner Falls Park & More

by Heide Brandes

Reading Time: 6 minutes 

Just south of Ardmore, a few short miles east of Interstate 35, lies beautiful Lake Murray, one of Oklahoma’s most picturesque and busiest state parks. With over 12,500 acres, ample opportunities for family recreation make this a popular summer destination, and lodges and cabins on the lake fill up fairly quickly. Fortunately, other nearby accommodations or day trips from the Oklahoma City metro make it easy to enjoy all the fun there is to offer.

“There’s a lot to see at Lake Murray, and it’s the largest state park in Oklahoma,” said Kelly Clark, marketing coordinator for the Oklahoma State Parks. “People love to stay in the lodges and cabins because it’s all centralized with the activities, including a water playground and boat rentals. It’s very popular with families.”

To reach Lake Murray State Park, head south on I-35 from Oklahoma City. It’s just over 100 miles to exit 24 (Lodge Road), which will take you directly into the park.

Fun in the Sun

Outdoor activities abound at Lake Murray State Park. Lake Murray Water Sports and Mini Golf (3322 Lodge Road) provides equipment rental for a fun day on the lake. Non-motorized options (paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, waterbikes and sailboats) and motorized options (waverunners, jetboats and accessories such as skis, tubes and wakeboards) can be rented by the hour, including lifejackets (which are required). If you’d prefer to hang out closer to shore, try out the water trampoline and water slide combo area. Fees and requirements for activities vary.

When it’s time to dry off, the 18-hole mini golf ($5 per person) and concession stand with drinks, snacks, ice cream and sno-cones offer family fun near the water when it’s time to dry off. One favorite activity for visitors is a pontoon cruise of the lake, where you can see the sights and learn a little about the history of the state’s first state park. Half-hour daytime cruises last 30 minutes and run $7 per person; the 75-minute sunset cruises are $12 per person. Private houseboat cruises are also available for groups of 25 or more by advance reservation, with or without dinner and drinks.

The Lake Murray State Park Golf Course is a well-manicured and challenging 18-hole course loaded with natural beauty. Fairways are lined with towering trees, water hazards and a striking natural waterfall. Golfers of all ages and abilities are welcome, especially at the newly-renovated pro shop, making this course great for families. A full rate sheet and downloadable course layout and scorecard are available online.

The Lake Murray Riding Stables offer an adventure of the four-legged variety. Open weekends seasonally, families can book guided trail rides or hayrides that are appropriate for riders of all skill levels. Visit  travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.4357 for more information. Open daily from March 1 through Labor Day from 9 am to 5 pm. After Labor Day to November 30, the stables are open Monday through Friday from noon to 5pm and Saturday & Sunday from 10am-5pm. Closed Wednesdsays.

“Across from the Murray Lodge are the horse stables, and the guides will take you on a guided trail ride,” said Clark. “This is also a really popular family activity, and you’re never on your own. An experienced guide leads you all the way.” Trail rides are $20 per person, or $5 for ages 2–5 (must ride double with an adult.) Rides can accommodate up to groups of 12, no minimum required. Call 580-223-8172 for more information.

For visitors who prefer to explore the area on their own two feet (or even two wheels), the 10 miles of the Lake Murray State Park Trail System offers the perfect trek for novice hikers or mountain bikers. The Pecan Grove Day-Use Area opens to trailheads that ramble through flat land and wooden bridges, easing into more challenging rocky areas. Mountain bikers can stay on the footpath or challenge their ride with small ramps and jumps along the route, and the paths will also provide thrills through beautiful scenery, waterfalls and the Buckhorn Interpretive Trail, which adds facts and fun information about the local wildlife and fauna.

“There are trails throughout the entire park, but one in the Buzzard’s Roost area will take you up around all the rock formations in the park,” Clark said. “Because Lake Murray is the state’s first state park, there [are] neat historical foundations and buildings to be discovered.” Find more information about at www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.18224. For lodging, call 580-223-4044.

New at Lake Murray

A few miles south of the main park entrance is Tucker Tower. From Lodge Road, head south on State Highway 77S for a few miles and you will reach the tower, on the shores of Lake Murray. Designed originally to be a retreat for Governor Murray in 1933, this medieval-style fortress features a new multi-million dollar Nature Center, a hands-on, interpretive and educational center focused on the environment around Lake Murray and all around the state.

The goal of the new nature center is to educate children about the impact of their presence and to inspire caring for the environment. The importance of conservation—water, energy and other natural resources—is stressed throughout the gallery, and the “green” aspects of the building are highlighted and explained for visitors.

Lodging Options

For visitors who choose to stay at the park, there are a few options available, depending on your comfort preference. On the north end of the lake, Lake Murray Floating Cabins (formerly Lake Murray Bed and Berth) provide luxury in their vacation villas with views of Tranquility Point. The floating cabins feature two master bedrooms, a sleeping loft, balconies, showers and other amenities.

The Lake Murray Lodge features 49 rooms, three suites and internet access in the lobby. “The lodge is in need of a facelift, and we will be building a new lodge in the coming years,” said Clark. “But while we build the new lodge, the old lodge will remain open.” Those who prefer a more rustic getaway can select from 323 RV sites, 500 tent sites in nine campgrounds and 56 rustic cabins.

Other Places to Visit

One of the best features of Lake Murray State Park is its great proximity to many other family-friendly venues. Here are several nearby places to check out on your trip south:

  • Ardmore—In the nearby town of Ardmore, the Greater Southwest Historical Museum will introduce your children to the history of the southwest through a collection of unique artifacts acquired from around the area. The main museum hall features a re-creation of turn-of-the-century life in Oklahoma. Three additional wings house transportation and technology exhibits, local and changing galleries and a military memorial museum. Hands-on activities for kids provide fun and engaging learning opportunities.
  • Turner Falls—Turner Falls Park in Davis is located just north of Ardmore and Lake Murray State Park and is a jewel of a mountain getaway. An adventurous and family-friendly destination deep in the Arbuckle Mountains, families can explore the cool springs, rugged wilderness trails or the streaming 77-foot waterfall that the park is famous for. Download a map of the park before you go to plan your visit. Adventurous visitors may want to hike to the deserted Collings Castle ruins, which is fairly easy to find but somewhat challenging to explore as the ruins are in a state of disrepair. The park also features paved and gravel roads, trails, caves, swimming areas, creeks to wade in and multiple day-use picnic areas and overnight cabins or camp sites. See website for admission fees, cabin or campsite reservations.
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area—Located near the town of Sulphur, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is really two parks in one, offering outdoor activities such as hiking, boating, fishing and swimming plus a historic view of the former Platt National Park, land that was sold to the government by the Chickasaw Nation in order to protect the unique freshwater and mineral springs along Travertine and Rock Creeks. The Travertine Nature Center educates visitors on the local flora and fauna and is open year-round. The area is home to the Lake of the Arbuckles, great for fishing, or families can enjoy a host of other activities, including biking, bird watching, boating, camping swimming, hiking and more.
  • Chickasaw Cultural Center—The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur features displays, interactive media, hands-on classes and a close look at the Chickasaw culture. It’s easy to spend most of the day immersed in the interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits. Children can connect with the past as they visit with Chickasaw elders of the tribe who share their stories and memories with visitors. Getting hungry? Try lunch or dinner at the Aaimpa’ Café, which serves up traditional Chickasaw and American foods. For picky eaters, children’s meals can include traditional American favorites, but for adventurous eaters, the menu also includes Indian fry bread, buffalo burgers, pishofa, grape dumplings and seasonal foods such as wild onions and possum grapes.

An amazing adventure is waiting for you just south of Oklahoma City in and around Lake Murray State Park. Whether you choose to head south for several days or make a few trips, your family is sure to find adventure that will bring smiles for years to come.

Contact Information:

Lake Murray Water Sports and Mini Golf
3322 Lodge Road, Ardmore
580-223-7185, www.lakemurraywatersports.com

Lake Murray State Park Golf Course
2673 Lodge Road, Ardmore
580-223-6613, www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.4359

Lake Murray Riding Stables at Lake Murray State Park
Open March–November; Saturdays–Sundays, 9:00am–5:00pm
Reservations required

Tucker Tower Nature Center
Open daily, 9:00am-6:30pm.Free admission, donations accepted.
18407 Scenic Highway 77, Ardmore

Lake Murray Floating Cabins
115 Bed & Berth Dr, Ardmore
580-223-0088, www.oklahomabedandberth.com
Open year-round; accommodations by reservation only

Lodging at Lake Murray
580-223-4044, www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.4358

Greater Southwest Historical Museum
35 Sunset Drive, Ardmore
580-226-3857, www.gshm.org
Open Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; free admission

Turner Falls Park
Hwy 77, Davis
580-369-2988, www.turnerfallspark.com

Chickasaw National Recreation Area
1008 West Second Street, Sulphur
580-622-7234, www.nps.gov/chic

Chickasaw Cultural Center
Open Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm;
Sunday, noon-5:00pm.
867 Cooper Memorial Drive, Sulphur
580-622-7130, www.chickasawculturalcenter.com

Heide 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.

more stories

Verified by MonsterInsights