Explore OK {Chickasaw National Recreation Area}

While in the Sulphur area, we made sure to explore the Chickasaw National Recreation Area (CNRA). This was the park we visited over Labor Day weekend and wanted to be sure to explore again.

The main attraction of the CNRA is water….lakes, streams, waterfalls, springs. It is also Oklahoma’s oldest national park. In the early 1900s the mineral and freshwater springs were threatened by nearby growth and influx of people moving to the area. The Chickasaw Nation sold 640 acres to the government as a way to protect the natural resources.

There are numerous hiking (walking) trails and camping sites (primarily tent camping). Also on the grounds is a nature center where kids can participate in the Junior Ranger Program.

ChickasawRecreation-01ChickasawRecreation-02ChickasawRecreation-03ChickasawRecreation-05ChickasawRecreation-06These next few pictures are from our visit in late summer.ChickasawRecreation-07ChickasawRecreation-08ChickasawRecreation-09ChickasawRecreation-10ChickasawRecreation-12Since we weren’t camping, we didn’t pack lunches. Right outside the park is the main area of Sulphur. We ate at the Artesian Hotel and Bedré Cafe.

ChickasawRecreation-13Bedré Cafe had amazing shakes – the old fashioned kind. Regrettably, I signed up for a 21-day no sugar challenge with my Crossfit gym. Worst timing ever. It took so much willpower not to get a shake or to eat chocolate. I told Chris I better have washboard abs after this challenge is over.ChickasawRecreation-15My tips for visiting the Chickasaw National Recreation Area with kids:

  • Go on an off day (this is my tip for everywhere!)
  • If you like swimming, I would go in late summer when it is really hot in OK…the water is pretty cold.
  • If swimming, I would bring a couple of tubes for floating.
  • Pack sunscreen – even with all the tree coverage, you need sunscreen.
  • Several of the hikes are pretty short (less than 2 miles). You don’t need to pack a ton for those hikes, but a water bottle and a snack come in handy for little ones.
  • Pack a picnic lunch.
  • If you want to camp overnight, there are not very many trailer spots. You will need to plan ahead and probably avoid really busy weekends if you want a spot. There are tons of tent camping spots.
  • Be sure to pay attention to what water is okay to get in…everything west of the Nature Center is okay, east of it is not.
  • The whole area is rich in history. The Junior Ranger Program can be found at the Nature Center. If you have several hours (or are staying overnight), I would recommend doing that with younger kids (10 and under). Some older kids might like it too.
  • Most of the trails are gravel…but many are near water. Just something to consider when picking out your shoes. I wore sandals and kept getting gravel in them. My kids wore running shoes, which worked better, but took longer to get off for water. Water hiking shoes would probably be the best.
  • Don’t go to Bedré Cafe if you can’t have sugar. It is brutal.

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  • Jenn - looks like such a fun trip
    I wanted to send you a note because I came across something that I think your little one will love. my sister is hosting an Usborne book party on facebook. I can add you to the party if you are interested. I have seen the books before and they are beautiful but I have never specifically seen this one particular book. The book is called ALL BETTER(The Bandaid Book) I remember you mentioning in a somewhat recent blog post about her love for bandaids. this one you can take the bandaids off and place them on the animals in the book. it looks so cute. I just had to share it with you.

  • Byron - ***Don’t go to Bedré Cafe if you can’t have sugar. It is brutal.***

    LOL! I have come to accept my pudginess (I have my sister to thank for that particular classification). I will definitely hit the cafe and have a shake! She looks like she’s in heaven! 🙂

  • Angela Atkins - This is one of our favorite camping/hiking spot

  • Angela Atkins - Trying again–keyboard issues. This is one of our favorite camping areas, especially since it is within an hour drive for us. Close is always good since we use a tent and usually can’t reserve spots for those. Don’t want to be super far away if it is full and we must come home! There are more trailer camping spots a little further south around Arbuckle Lake, a lot of which can be reserved. Glad to see the water is back up–it was pretty dry before last year’s spring rain.

  • Sarah - I grew up in Ardmore going to the Chickasaw National Recreation area as a kid. I took my own kids there for the first time last August. They had so much fun, but it was still COLD! We will have to try Bedre next time we come to Oklahoma, thanks for the recommendation.