Once a destination for people who believed in the healing and restorative powers of the nearby sulphur springs – from which the town took its name – and for the location of Oklahoma’s only national park, Sulphur remains a place that beckons people looking for a variety or outdoor recreation, dining, or even a little pampering.
The city’s variety makes it unique, says Chamber of Commerce executive director Anna Lawrence, a life-long resident.
“Sulphur is a great town,” she says. “I like to see people who aren’t from [here] come and see what Sulphur has to offer.”
The city boasts three prime attractions:
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
The sprawling, 10,000-acre area presents a smorgasbord of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing and swimming. It features two lakes, six campgrounds and 22 miles of trails, which park ranger Megan Wilkins says present several ways to enjoy the outdoors. Even though most of the sulphur springs are no longer flowing, one remains, for visitors who want to “take the waters.”
Wilkins reported that park use spiked during the initial COVID-19 surge as people discovered the safety of outdoor life.
“Once we got past that very early phase, our park became a good option for folks, because we are so outdoor-based,” says Wilkins. “Being outdoors was one of the good options available.”
Fishing and boating are offered at the 3,000-acre Lake of the Arbuckles and the 200-acre Veterans Lake. The park’s sprawling acreage includes the original Platt National Park – the nation’s seventh national park, which became part of the CNRA in 1976.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center
Operated by the Chickasaw Nation, the center offers a Smithsonian-quality immersion into the rich history and culture of the Chickasaw people on Sulphur’s western edge. With 118,000 square feet of exhibit space, the CCC includes an interactive exhibit hall, art galleries, outdoor sculptures and a genealogy and research library. The CCC’s theater and café are closed for extensive renovations, says event operations director Fran Parchcorn.
She says the center re-opened last July and has seen a steady number of visitors – including one family that recently flew in from France. Since opening in 2010, the CCC has attracted close to 850,000 visitors.
“We’re shooting for that million mark,” says Parchcorn.
At the southern edge of downtown, the 81-room Artesian Hotel, built by the Chickasaw Nation, occupies the site of the original hotel by the same name. It offers visitors what the original hotel also did – a chance to relax in luxury.
Hotel general manager Justin Williams says it has been popular with townspeople and visitors since opening in 2013, with lots of repeat customers. Hotel occupancy approaches 95% in summer, and hovers at about 75% the rest of the year.
People who frequent the four-story hotel love it, he says, “but it’s always interesting to see a fresh set of eyes” on the hotel that features restaurants, retail, a pool, a 270-person ballroom on the ground floor and guest rooms on the top three floors. The hotel is also connected to a tribal-operated casino.
Elsewhere near downtown, the original 1917 City Hall now houses the Arbuckle Historical Museum, presenting a storehouse of local history.
Two state institutions are located in town: The Sulphur School for the Deaf, serving deaf and hearing-impaired children; and the Sulphur Veterans Center, maintained for U.S. Armed Service veterans who need nursing home care.