Beaver's Bend State Park and Nature Center, Broken Bow. Photos courtesy Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation

Oklahoma’s state parks are packed with activities for families to enjoy, hikes to try, rivers and lakes to swim in and fish upon, and ample spaces for camping excursions.

Roman Nose State Park, Watonga

We’ve got 38 state parks, and they each reflect Oklahoma’s unique geographical regions, says Sterling Zearley, director of Oklahoma State Parks, Lodges and Golf.

Take, for example, the sand dunes in Little Sahara State Park, the mountains of Beavers Bend State Park and the caves of Alabaster Caverns and Robbers Cave state parks, he says.

“It’s a good way for people to enjoy Oklahoma and the unique activities we have,” Zearley says about visiting the state’s parks. Officials say camping is always a popular activity – whether it’s in a tent, RV, cabins or lodges.

Spring, summer and fall tend to be prime seasons for camping, says Rebecca Forbes, park manager with Greenleaf, Cherokee Landing and Tenkiller state parks.

Forbes recommends that visitors first determine what they want to do in a park, whether it’s camping, hiking, boating, kayaking or fishing, to better gauge where they should go. She also recommends that people make reservations early by, the state’s travel and tourism site.

Forbes says she enjoys meeting visitors to the park and watching the fun they have while camping or exploring.

“I think people are wanting to get away from the day-to-day grind and just come out and enjoy nature and relax and unwind,” she says. 

Shannon Nix, an avid hiker, outdoor enthusiast and Norman resident, is a fan of visiting the state’s parks. She counts Robbers Cave as a favorite and has led a women’s retreat to the location. Nix also founded the Women’s Hiking Crew & Adventures group on Facebook. The group plans monthly hikes and a spring and fall retreat each year for women 18 and up. 

Nix says exploring Oklahoma’s parks is exciting, as “each has its own special gems.” She encourages residents to add Oklahoma’s state parks to their destination list.

“There’s so muc h to do,” she says. “If they try one, I think they’ll be hooked.”

Tips for Happy Camping

New to camping? Nix offers tips for a successful trip.

  • Research the park. Decide what type of camping you want to do beforehand, such as primitive camping, camping with electricity, ‘glamping,’ or residing in a cabin or lodge. 
  • Create a checklist. Figure out the gear you’ll need and ensure it’s functional before you leave the house. 
  • Keep your campsite safe and clean. Don’t leave food out, which can attract animals. Also, leave no trace. “Everything you bring in, take out with you or dispose of it in the trash,” says Nix.
  • Don’t delay unpacking. Unpack as soon as you return home, and check your tent to make sure it’s dry before storing it.

Wildlife Awareness

Outdoor adventures may bring you close to wildlife. Smokey Solis with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers these tips.

  • Give animals their space. “It is always best to leave wildlife alone. Yes, they are cute little creatures, but typically humans interacting with wildlife does more harm than good,” he says. 
  • Always secure your food and trash. Solis says bears and raccoons are especially curious about these items, so “make sure you have trash bags or something secure to put your trash in.”
  • Watch out for ticks. “Pants and long sleeves are a good start,” says Solis. “You want to limit any chance that a tick can make contact with your skin. If you do get bitten by a tick, remove it as soon as possible.”
  • Study the repellants you’re using. Solis says insect repellents that contain DEET can be applied to clothes and skin, while repellents containing Permethrin should only be applied to clothes and allowed to fully dry before use.
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