Oklahoma summers require one very important thing: a way to stay cool! Thankfully, our state’s abundant waters make that easy. Have fun in the great outdoors while keeping cool in one of these popular swimming holes around the Sooner State.
The Dam at Pennington Creek- Tishomingo
Pennington Creek runs through a 15-acre park in Tishomingo (about two hours southeast of the metro). A small dam has created a popular swimming hole with crisp, cool waters. There is no charge for swimming and the park offers amenities like full RV hookups and sites for tent camping as well as on-site restrooms and showers. Located close by is the historic Chickasaw Nation Capitol Museum. For more information, visit www.tishomingo.ok.gov or call 580-371-2369
Chickasaw Recreation Area- Sulphur
Swimming holes abound at the Chickasaw Recreation Area (about an hour and a half southeast of the metro). From the two and half miles of weaving waters of Travertine and Rock Creeks to the deep waters of Lake Arbuckle, there is no shortage of places to take a cool dip on a hot summer day. Travertine Creek gets most of its water from Antelope and Buffalo Springs. With an average temperature of 65 degrees, you are in for an invigorating swim. Little Niagara is the most popular area to swim; however, the Chickasaw Recreation Area includes 75 natural rock falls and six man-made dams.
Open year-round, The Travertine Nature Center has ranger-led programs daily during the summer, including activities such as hikes, creek walks, night hikes and more. Lake of the Arbuckles has 36 miles of shoreline and 2,300 acres of open water for families to fish, boat, ski and even scuba dive. There are six public campgrounds in the area offering RV and tent camping options. The park is open 24 hours a day, year round and there is no fee to enter. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/chic or call 580-622-7234.
Beavers Bend- Broken Bow
Beavers Bend State Park (about four hours southeast of the metro) is located in the mountainous region of southeast Oklahoma. Forests of pine and hardwood trees surround crystal-clear Broken Bow Lake and free flowing Mountain Fork River. With multiple designated swim beaches and swimming holes, you won’t have to search hard for a place to cool off. Visitors can take part in hiking, biking, boating, fishing, water skiing, nature center activities, river float trips, canoeing, horseback riding and more. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during peak season, the park has a lake-view lodge, cabins, RV and tent campsites as well as a mini golf course, paddle boat and canoe rentals and a concession stand and snow cone shack. For off-peak hours and more information, call 580-494-6300 or visit www.travelok.com
Turner Falls Park- Davis
Turner Falls (about an hour south of the metro) has been a favorite destination for families in the state for many years. Its iconic 77-foot waterfall, rugged wilderness trails, caves, plentiful wildlife and castle ruins offer families plenty to do. However, the most popular activity in the park is likely swimming, especially during our hot summer season. You can splash in the shallows, zip down a slide into Blue Hole Pool or dive deep in the natural pool created by the massive waterfall. The parks paved roads, parking lots, picnic areas and shops make a day or weekend trip easy.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to dark daily. For those staying overnight, cabin rentals and camping sites are available in the park and park admission from May 1 to Sept. 30 is $12 for adults, $6 for kids 6 to 12 and free for kids 5 and under. Winter rates are $4 for adults and kids 6 to 12. New regulations require that kids 12 and under must have a certified flotation device on while in the water. Turner Falls can be quite busy during the peak season so you will want to make reservations early. For more information, call the park office at 580-369-2988 or visit www.turnerfallspark.com
Illinois River- Tahlequah
The gently flowing Illinois River in Tahlequah (about two hours and 45 minutes east of the metro) is widely known for its float trips. Families have enjoyed picturesque views of the Ozark Hills from aboard rafts, kayaks and canoes for decades. And, all the features that make for a great float trip also make for an ideal natural swimming experience. There are public access points dotted all along the river, so finding a spot to swim is no challenge at all. In fact, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission maintains 11 public access points and swimming is permitted at all OSRC areas. A number of float trip outfitters also offer motels, camping and cabins, in addition to boat rentals. For more information, call 918-456-3251 or visit www.travelok.com.
Blue River- Tishomingo
The waters of Blue River bubble up from a spring near Connerville (about two hours southeast of the metro) and continue down waterfall after waterfall. Between the granite boulder falls are pools of crystal clear water perfect for taking a dip or catching some fish. Blue River is also a popular fishing site to catch trout, bass, crappie and catfish. Add some adventure to your trip and kayak! The river offers class II-III rapids with its short falls, interval currents and ledges. Adults without a current fishing or hunting license require a Blue River Conservation Passport which can be purchased through the Oklahoma Wildlife Department. Lodging and camping is available. Currently there is no charge for camping. Bathroom facilities are limited to certain areas so plan accordingly. Extend your nature experience at the nearby Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge. Open dawn to dusk, the refuge stretches across 16,000 acres and has abundant hiking and nature trails. To plan your trip, call 580-371-9288 or visit www.blueriverok.com or www.chickasawcountry.com/outdoors/blue-river.
Lake Murray State Park – Ardmore
While Lake Murray (about two hours south of the metro) isn’t exactly a swimming hole, this state park offers some exciting features that combine nature and the water. As Oklahoma’s first and largest state park, Lake Murray’s diverse terrain and variety of things to do make this a favorite family destination. Amidst the 5,728 surface acres of water are four swimming beaches including one that is of particular interest to families. Lake Murray Water Sports & Mini Golf has decked out the Resort Lodge Beach with water slides and trampolines. For $10 an hour per person, your crew can jump, splash and slide in the cool waters. They also offer motorized and non-motorized rentals including canoes, paddle boats and more as well as an 18-hole mini-golf course.
Sunset Beach is another great swimming option at Lake Murray. Located on the east side of the lake in the day-use area, it tends to be less crowded. Pack a picnic and dine at one of the park’s many shady gathering spots. Extend the fun and make it a whole weekend excursion with a stay at the park’s lodge, floating cabins or campsites. Another must-do activity, The Lake Murray Nature Center at Tucker Tower sits on a cliff overlooking the lake, offering visitors a 360 degree view of the water, information about the lake’s history and wildlife as well as a great spot for photographs. The nature center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily from March to October and Wednesday through Sunday from November to February. For more information, visit www.lake-murray.org.
Blue Hole Park – Salina
Family owned and operated, Blue Hole Park (about two and a half hours northeast of the metro) offers 17 acres of fun including several swimming holes, a concession stand serving up burgers, fried pickles, snow cones, ice cream and more as well as RV and tent campsites and cabins. The spring fed waters get as deep as 22-feet, however, there are plenty of shallow areas to splash around. Bring your tubes and floats and enjoy the cold, crystal clear waters. The Park opens daily at 9 a.m. starting Memorial Weekend. Day admission is $10 per car per day. For those wanting to stay overnight, RV and tent sites are available as well as cabins. For more information, visit the park’s Facebook page, or call 918-434-5507.
Gage Artesian Beach – Gage
Gage Artesian Beach (about two and a half hours northwest of the metro) is unlike any other in the state. In the early 1900s, a crew digging for oil accidentally struck water. Water sprang up through the surrounding soil creating a ‘natural’ pool. With cement sides and a sandy bottom, Gage Artesian Beach is a hybrid of a lake and community pool and is about the size of a football field. Ranging from three to 14-feet deep, the mineral-laden waters, once said to cure ailments, are great for floating. Open seasonally, the beach has a basketball goal, two slides and two diving board as well as a playground, picnic and restroom facilities. Admission is $2 for ages 4 and older and is open from 1 – 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Coolers, lawn chairs, floating devices and pets on a leash are welcome. Stay up to date on weather closures as well as special events by visiting the Gage Artesian Beach Facebook page.
(Editor’s Note: This list was put together in 2016. Please be sure to call ahead before visiting to make sure hours of operation and cost of admission hasn’t changed.)