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
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
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
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
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
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
Museum of the Red
River, large galleries
focusing on archeology and native arts
the new dinosaur exhibit)
Wheelock Academy Museum, artifacts from the former Choctaw girls boarding
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.
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.
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.