Further south on the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles, three short trails are popular with park visitors. In the Point District the one and a half mile round trip Fishing Rock Trail heads west following the shoreline of the lake. Starting in dense hardwood forest, cedar trees give way to mixed grass prairie before ending. There are several places where you can access the lake to fish, permits are required.
The Lakeview Trail is one mile round trip and also skirts the open shoreline. It offers excellent views of the Buckhorn arm of the lake and ends at a small, pebble covered beach. In the winter be sure to bring binoculars to spot wintering bald eagles.
In the Buckhorn District the mile long Buckhorn Area Trail connects the picnic area with the campground. The trail is one of the best places to spot wildlife (or signs of their activity) including armadillos, wild turkeys, and fox squirrels. The lakeshore is also alive with a number of amphibians, minnows and turtles.
Handicapped visitors will be thrilled to know that the 2.8 mile long Veterans Lake Trail is fully accessible. Two miles of the trail is paved with the remaining section gravel covered. The trail snakes around 67-acre manmade Veterans Lake and offers good opportunities to see both wildlife and wildflowers. In the fall and spring Canada geese call the lake home using it as a stop over.
Horseback riders and mountain bikers flock to Chickasaw to ride the Rock Creek Trail. The trail is almost nine miles round trip from the Rock Creek Campground to the Buckhorn Campground. Rolling across fields, forests, and hills the well marked and maintained trail offers a variety of terrain that novice to intermediate riders can appreciate. The trail is superbly maintained with several rock fields and creek crossings creating a fun and scenic ride.
Chickasaw is extremely popular for boating with 2,350-acre Lake of the Arbuckles being the main attraction. Vast sections of the lake are available for powerboats. Several areas along the tips of the various fingers are designated, "no wake zones," with an exclusion zone for all boats by the Goddard Youth Camp. Whether you like to fish, water ski, canoe, or enjoy recreational boating, the park offers and idyllic setting.
Hunting is allowed in the park within the guidelines of the state of Oklahoma. Feral pigs can be taken year round with geese, duck, squirrel, and deer hunted in season. Baiting and spotlighting is illegal within park boundaries. Hunting stands can be used but they must be portable and they need to be removed.
The park has six campgrounds including three on the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles. Cold Springs Campground is located in the Travertine District. The 63 site campground has no hookups or showers but does offer potable water and flush toilets. All campsites have picnic tables and fire rings. Located in the historic Platt District, the 106 site Rock Creek campground sits just to the west of Veterans Lake. The campground has a dump station and identical facilities to Cold Springs. Also located in the Platt District, the Central Campground has ten group camping sites available by reservation.
Along the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles, the remote Guy Sandy campground offers 40 campsites on the western most tip of the lake. The campground has picnic tables, fire rings, a boat ramp, potable water, and pit toilets. Further to the east, The Point campground has 52 sites along the shore of the lake with flush toilets.
Finally the Buckhorn Campground offers 177 sites in four loops. Loop C and D have electrical hookups for recreational vehicles. The campground offers the best amenities with showers, dump station, boat ramp, swimming area, fishing and direct access to hiking trails.
Being less than three hours away from Dallas/Ft. Worth and Oklahoma City, Chickasaw National Recreation Area is an ideal place to visit for a day, a weekend or a week. Open year round the cool waters are inviting during the blistering heat of the summer and the tepid winters offer quiet reflection along the many trails. The scenic beauty of the Arbuckle Mountains is a surprising national treasure waiting to be explored.
Just The Plain Facts
Name: Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Location: South Central Oklahoma, Sulphur
Nearest Major Air Service: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Fees & Permits: Park access is free. Appropriate state of Oklahoma hunting and fishing permits required. Appropriate boat registration required. Daily boat launch permit, $4. Annual boat launch permit, $30.
Why Visit: Beautiful treasure in the heart of the country. Limestone formations of the crumbling Arbuckle Mountains to the west, water sports, hiking, camping, family fun. Numerous natural springs, many potable with only limited treatment.
When To Visit: Year round, best from March to June and September to November
Essential Gear: Depends on a wide variety of activity. Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, insect repellant, bathing suit, camera, binoculars, and drinking water. Other gear is strongly recommended.
You Should Know: Humidity and heat can be oppressive during the summer months. Hikers should use caution during hunting season and check with the park on trail closures. Many dining and lodging opportunities are available in adjacent Sulphur. The park can be very crowded in July and August.
More Information: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Box 201, Sulphur, OK 73086, (580) 622-3165