By Rep. Mike Sanders
In the few weeks before school starts, I thought it might be fun to write about some of the tourism opportunities we have in Northwest Oklahoma. Whether it’s a day hike, some fishing or overnight camping, there are plenty of things to do in our area that don’t involve a great deal of cost or even much travel time.
I know my favorite spots in the Northwest part of the state, but I also sought some suggestions from Leslie Blair at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. She, in turn, gathered some information from the state Department of Tourism & Recreation. Following is a list of our combined ideas.
Roman Nose State Park near Watonga has everything from pristine views of canyons and mesas to wide open fields of buffalo grass and wild blue sage, not to mention the refreshing waters of Lake Watonga. You can hike the trails or fish or boat. You can swim in the pool; rent canoes, kayaks or paddle boats; ride horses or mountain bikes; play golf; camp out or stay in the lodge or a cabin.
Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward is another beautiful place to visit. Of course, the highlight of the park is the natural “boiling” spring that still flows. Visit the interpretive center for more information about the spring and the wildlife on view at the park. Camp, RV or stay in a cabin; hike three different trails; swim in the pool; or just enjoy a picnic for the day.
If you’re looking for something literally cool to do, visit Alabaster Caverns State Park near Freedom. The three-quarter-mile cavern is formed of alabaster, a rare form of gypsum, and is the world’s largest natural gypsum cave that is open to the public. Once inside the cavern, you’ll be able to see the interesting gypsum formations as well as bats that take up residence in the cool dark environment. Guided tours of the cave are conducted daily on the hour, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Groups of three or more can request a permit through Sept. 30 to go wild caving. You’ll need to bring your own gear, including three light sources per spelunker, hard hats or bicycle helmets, long sleeves and water. There are also a few hiking trails at the park.
The Great Salt Plains State Park near Jet is another fun family adventure. Through Oct. 15, you can dig for selenite crystals, or you can watch for many of the migratory birds that use the nearby wildlife refuge as a stopping place. The refuge is comprised of salt left over from an ocean that covered Oklahoma in prehistoric times, and the saltwater lake in the park, Great Salt Plains Lake, is said to be about half as salty as the ocean. Visitors can hike or bike on trails or bring your horses to ride. You can fish at the lake. The cabins also have been newly renovated, and there are tent and RV campsites available if you want to check into staying a night or two.
For additional outings, you could visit the sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park or Beaver Dunes Park near Waynoka, or take in the beauty and the history of the Black Kettle Recreation Area near Cheyenne
Visiting our state parks and taking advantage of the amenities they have to offer is a wonderful way to enjoy our great state.
As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.