Getaway to Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma

By George Cowgill



   Visitors to Broken Bow Lake motor through dense pine forests, breathe in crisp mountain air, and cast for trout in clear running streams. When they first see the area, Easterners are reminded of the Appalachian Mountains, Westerners of the foothills of the Rockies – Texans might think they’re traveling in an entirely different country; and in a way they are.


   Broken Bow Lake is a three-hour drive North and East of Dallas, and is located in the American Indian Choctaw Nation.  The area holds many surprises for the weekend traveler.  There are dramatic mountain vistas, state parks, wilderness areas, history museums, family amusements, and unique restaurants to experience, all within minutes of rustic, yet comfortable accommodations. 


“The lake area has something for everyone,” said Charity O’Donnell, Director of the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce. “Each year we have new businesses and restaurants opening to keep up with our growth in tourism.”


   Most initial visits to the area begin with Beavers Bend State Park.   The park is considered by many to be the best in the state and includes access to Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River.  The lake is renowned for bass fishing and holds the state record for largest black bass, with several other records in the top twenty.  Boating, fishing, swimming, and hiking are enjoyed by nearly 1 million visitors annually. Beavers Bend offers numerous educational and recreational activities including a Nature Center with birds of prey, snakes, and other animals indigenous to the area, and a Forest Heritage Museum. Through the state of Oklahoma’s innovative partnership program, private businesses also provide canoeing, horseback riding, miniature golf, train rides, and other family activities in the park.   For refreshments and gifts, you’ll want to visit the park’s restaurant and gift shop located on a beautiful bend of the Lower Mountain Fork River.

   The Kiamichi Mountains surrounding Broken Bow Lake have evolved into a rich recreation area, providing additional outdoor activities. Visitors enjoy golfing at the Cedar Creek Golf course (the golf course is owned and operated by the State Park), go kart racing, ATV excursions into the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (a 450,000 acre forest owned by Weyerhauser Company, $25.00 access permit required), as well as hiking, bird watching, hunting, and fishing in the Quachita National Forest. 



  There are a number of privately operated museums in the area; the Car Legends Muscle Car museum near Broken Bow showcases vintage muscle cars from the 60’s and 70’s and the Beavers Bend Wildlife museum, located at the state park entrance, features mounted wildlife in natural habitat settings.


   Broken Bow and McCurtain County have a unique history, heavily influenced by the arrival of the Choctaw Indians in 1832.  The Choctaw Nation was the first Indian tribe to be forcibly “removed” from their homelands in the east and granted lands in what is now Southeastern Oklahoma.   The Choctaws endured the first “trail of tears” and the people suffered greatly.  Thousands died as they marched through Louisiana swamps in the middle of winter. When they arrived in their new homeland, they established their first town, called Eagle Town, five miles east of Broken Bow. Slowly, the tribe recovered and built schools, churches, and townships in the Broken Bow area.  Before the arrival of the Choctaw, the area served as a hunting ground for the Caddo Indians.  Some of the best places to visit and gain insight into the Choctaw and pre-historic Native Americans are: 


Gardner Mansion, home of the former Choctaw Chief Jefferson Gardner, built in 1884

Indian Memorial Museum, extensive collection of pre-historic pottery and artifacts

Museum of the Red River, large galleries focusing on archeology and native arts

                                                                        (See the new dinosaur exhibit)

Wheelock Academy Museum, artifacts from the former Choctaw girls boarding school


Of course, visitors can also experience some modern day excitement provided by the Choctaw Nation. The tribe operates two gaming centers in the area, in Broken Bow and Idabel.  


   With all these things to see and do, people come back several times a year, enjoying the change of seasons and taking part in new activities. “We try to get up here 3-4 times a year” said Gene South, a long time repeat visitor, “it’s nice in the summer because it’s usually a little cooler than Dallas.


    McCurtain County remains friendly and rural; many locals have lived in the area for several generations.  If you are up early and would like a glimpse of their day-to-day living, listen to the 8:00am “Trading Lines” on the local FM radio station.  The Trading Lines is an old time classifieds program where people call in and shout out what they have to sell, or what they want to buy.  (Kids can hear how things were before the internet and E-BAY.) On any given morning, great buys can be had on anything from lye soap, tomato plants, or farm fresh eggs.


   There are many accommodation options for weekends or extended stays.  The state park operates cabins and a lodge and the area has a large and growing industry in privately rented cabins.   Accommodations in the park and the privately operated cabin resorts are booked well in advance, so it’s best to reserve these early.  For more specifics on accommodations and other information about the area, contact the Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals at:




   Several attractions are omitted in this brief overview, such as the fun of just relaxing on the porch of your own cabin in the woods; for that and the many other things, you’ll just have to drive up and see for yourself; no passport required.