Did you know there is a national park in south central Oklahoma? Well there is! Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
We decided to take a little four day camping trip to this park, sight unseen, no idea what to expect. Sense of adventure kicked in while googling Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Our trip was delayed one year because our initial reservation was in March of 2020. Need I say more? ‘Rona ruined that plan.
Fast forward to 2021 and life is kind of good-ish again. Things are opening up, so we rebooked some campsites and hit the road with my sister and brother-in-law.
Southbound on I-35 through Oklahoma City on a Sunday early afternoon proved to be much more cumbersome with traffic than we had anticipated. You have your Edmond, your OKC, your Moore, your Norman, it just goes on and on for miles and miles. Happily, we arrived in Sulphur, Oklahoma and on to Buckhorn Campground section of the Chickasaw National park early enough to get set up and relax a little before nightfall.
Well. That was the hope anyway. I had used recreation.gov to peruse and reserve campsites. There are a limited number of sites you can reserve, and several that are first come/first serve. We are quite hesitant to drive 5 hours for what may or may not happen with a first come/first serve set up. Luckily I found a couple sites open to reserve, one with a spectacular lake view and one just next to it. The website indicated that both sites would easily accommodate a 42 foot RV. Well, ours is only 35 feet and my sister’s shorter than that, so BOOM, we had us a deal.
Both sites were significantly shorter than advertised. My sister’s little trailer fit in their site pretty well, just a little tricky to level. For the record, the site is 56C, in case you’re looking to camp there. 42 foot RV length limit? Well, their 26 foot trailer barely fit. But hey, the view was stunningly good and so worth the leveling woes.
On to our site. 53C. The larger of the two sites. Just eyeballing it from the camp road gave us serious doubt that our rig would fit. We were able to back up into the site (note the word “up”). Between the front to back slope and the side to side tilt, this site was a no-go. All the Anderson levelers and/or Lego-type jack blocks in the world wouldn’t have kept us from falling out of our bed.
We simply had to change campsites. Oh happy day.
To explain the process of changing campsites would be excruciatingly painful and possibly cause my blood pressure to rise as I type. It involved a cell phone with rec.gov reservation app. It involved no cell signal in this particular park. It involved me, on foot, walking around the campground staring at my phone’s signal indicator until, voila, the X (no signal icon) went away. Still zero bars of coverage, but somehow (thank you God), I was able to get the site changed to the next one over before signal was lost. Have you seen the movie “RV” with Robin Williams? Where he’s standing on a toilet stool holding his laptop up in the air to get just the right position for internet signal? Yeah. That was almost me.
Lest you get the notion that this trip was a bust….NO. It was not. Kind of a rough start, but we settled in and relaxed among the lovely spring green colors of the trees and beautiful clear water of the lake. Lots of walks around the park. Four days of peace and quiet. Although we did find several friendly campers to visit with. Birds sang to us, the occasional fish jumped in the lake, usually right after fisherman in boats had given up catching anything. Loons peacefully floated by and blue herons were seen along the shoreline. God blessed us with lovely weather and gorgeous sunsets. The no cell phone signal dealio was honestly blissful. Digital detox is good for the soul.
We did do a little sight-seeing in the area. Turner Falls is nearby so we made the short trip to see it. Wouldn’t ya know there’s a no pet rule. Even if they are in crates inside your vehicle. The gal at the gate showed us the exit and said “Get out”. Nah, she just explained the rule and said no exceptions. Okies are never mean. Oh wait. There’s that mean Joe Exotic the Tiger King, whose former animal compound is just a few miles from Chickasaw from what I hear. But I digress.
We found a scenic overlook near a zipline area on the way out and viewed the falls from afar, as well as the historic old castle that’s near it. Certainly not as impressive as standing at the base of the falls, but oh well. I should have wrapped Olive Ann in a receiving blanket and passed her off as my baby. Wait, isn’t she?
After leaving Turner Falls we checked out the entry region of the Chickasaw park back in Sulphur before heading to our campsite. Travertine Creek flows through this area with springs and rippling small waterfalls called “Little Niagara”. Some folks were swimming near the falls. There are great walking paths all over this park. In fact there are over 20 miles of hiking trails from what I read in the park info. It’s a well kept, beautiful park.
The only day with less than stellar weather we decided to take a little drive from our campsite in Buckhorn Campground over to a town on the map called Gene Autry, Oklahoma, and then on to Tishomingo, Oklahoma where Blake Shelton lives. Gene Autry was named after…..uh……Gene Autry. His hometown. There’s not a lot there. Population is 153, up from 99 in the year 2000. Along with the Gene Autry First Baptist Church, there’s a Methodist Church too. And the Gene Autry Museum which was closed, reportedly due to COVID-19. And the Gene Autry Post Office which is in the same building as the Museum. Apparently mailing letters isn’t as risky as walking through museum artifacts.
Tishomingo is a bustling little city thanks to Blake Shelton. We opted to stop in at the Ole Red Restaurant, which is next to the Ole Red Doghouse and outdoor performance area.
We spent the day before leaving for home enjoying the lovely warm sunny weather. When the four of us are together, double-six Dominoes will be played. On this particular day we set up a card table outside our RV for the games to begin. We roasted four large heads of garlic on the grill (one for each of us!!) and smashed the garlic cloves between pita chips and Cambozola cheese slices. Sooooo good. We had been playing dominoes every evening on this trip and it pains me to report that in four days, my sister and I, the famous Krisher Domino Professionals, only won twice. But hey, we were able to blow our nasty garlic breath on the men for payback.
Instead of dragging our camping vehicles back through the OKC metro area we opted to take 177 north and meet up with some friends who live near Tecumseh Oklahoma. What a cute town!! We thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely lunch at The Farmer’s Daughter Market before driving on north to home.
Adios, Chickasaw, we sure did enjoy spending time at your beautiful National Recreation Area. We’ll be back.
In the event you’re interested in reserving RV sites at Buckhorn Campground in this park, we think the best ones to reserve are Loop C, numbers 60-88. If you’re a tenter, though, you will absolutely love camping here. Every tent site is super nice. And the day use area with beaches and boat ramp is amazing. Great shaded picnic areas and ample parking. There is one other campground that has RV spots and it’s called The Point. We looked at sites there that are quite appealing, too.