As we were leaving Texas and entering Oklahoma we started joking about what there was to see in this state and said we’d make a one night stop and get through the state fast. We have never heard anything about Oklahoma that would make us say we had to go there. We were wrong. Of course there wasn’t much difference at first between Texas and Oklahoma; flat fields and a lot of cows. One of the first things we noticed about the fields was the dirt was red not black like in MN. We saw the green alfalfa fields but you could see the red dirt between the green. It was rather pretty. We also started to come across the rolling hills and trees. It started to look more like a drive through MN or WI or maybe even OH. But our real find and what would bring us back to Oklahoma were the state parks and the wonderful people running the state parks. We have stayed at so many state parks across the country and we can easily say that we have never met such phenomenal park rangers as in the two OK State Parks we stayed at.
Our first stop for two nights was at Foss Lake State Park in Foss. The state park was nothing out of the ordinary. It was pretty small, no hiking trails but it had three separate campgrounds; one with full hook-ups, one for tents and the one we stayed in was on the lake. We shared the CG with three other RVs. Maybe that was why we liked it. It was so peaceful. We walked Lily without her leash which she loved. We had a little issue with our water hook-up and the ranger stopped by to check on it. He ended up sitting inside our 5th wheel for an hour talking about the parks history. He was very interesting to talk to and he had Minnesota ties. His mother was from Worthington, MN and he still had grandparents living there. He took his wife to MN a few years ago to experience a MN winter but it just happened to be one of those brown winters. She wasn’t impressed. It sure wasn’t this year! He told us that his grandparents had come to OK a few years ago to visit and his grandmother filled a coffee can with the red dirt from here. She said people back in MN didn’t believe her when she said the dirt was red. He said he couldn’t believe the black dirt in MN. It was great visiting with him and he told us to come up to the office the next day to see the herd of buffalo the park kept. Because of the extreme drought they have had the last three years the lake was down 17 feet and they could no longer keep the buffalo because they were hand feeding them 100%. The buffalo were going to go to auction in spring. The drought has caused the park’s revenue to drop significantly so they were making cuts. The shoreline of the lake was amazing with the huge water drop. It has been a true eye-opener this winter to see and hear about the effects of this drought in the southwest.
Our next stop was at Lake Eufaula State Park in Checotah. Lake Eufaula is the largest man-made lake in Oklahoma. Eufaula Dam and Reservoir was authorized by Congress in 1946. The construction of the dam was started in 1956 by the Army Corp of Engineers and dedicated in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson. The cost was $150 million. The lake has 800 miles of shoreline and is 105,000 acres of water. It would take us days to drive around the lake.
So here is where we met the next park ranger unlike any other we have ever met. We walked into the park office and the ranger asked what he could do for us. After asking for a site for two nights he asked us which campground. As with Foss Lake, this park also had several campgrounds to pick from. We had driven through one when we entered the park but hadn’t seen the others. He asked if we wanted to go for a drive and he would take us through the park. So we hopped into his truck and he drove us through another campground that was lake side. He told us it was “prime property” and he wasn’t kidding. There were several sites overlooking the lake. We told him we didn’t have to look any farther. We picked a site and thought we were heading back to the office but he wanted to show us a little more of the park. He took us down to the marina and said they had an enclosed heated fishing area with a restaurant. He showed us an armadillo alongside the road and said we would see many more of them in the park. When he took us back to the office we told him that Oklahoma has the best park rangers we have ever met. What a great experience!
We wish we could have had a little better weather when we were at this park. We were the only RV in our campground besides the host. There were a few tents (crazy people) in the tent area. We did take a walk to the marina to check out the heated fishing building. The building was pretty large and besides the restaurant that was separated by a wall, the area for fishing was divided into four large water holes that were about 20ft by 20ft. It cost $5 to fish inside the building. There were several older men fishing so I asked if I could take their picture and then started a learning conversation with one. The area or hole he was fishing in was 19ft deep and one of the other area/hole was 30ft deep. When the fish are biting he said each of the four areas is surrounded by fishermen standing shoulder to shoulder. The rangers cut down “Christmas” trees, weigh them down and then hang them in the water to provide shelter for the fish. The guys were fishing for crappies, not much different then winter fishing in MN. The man I was talking to asked where I was from and he asked me many questions about MN fishing. Good thing I come from a fishing family because I did pretty good in answering his questions. I told him that his indoor fishing wasn’t much different than fishing in winter in MN in a fish house other than he was standing over open water in a heated building while in MN he would be standing on ice. Lucky for them their lakes don’t freeze. This truly is one of the great things of our travels – you meet people and when you ask questions they love to talk and you can learn so much. When we came out of the building we saw three park rangers loading “Christmas” trees onto a flat boat and watched them take them out into the lake and drop them. More homes for the fish.
We will return to Oklahoma and check out more of their wonderful state parks or maybe just return to these two. On to another state we haven’t been in, Arkansas, another adventure.