In 1906 Oklahoma had a National Park; it was actually the seventh National Park created, yet it is no longer as such. I was surprised to find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area just outside Sulphur, Oklahoma, was once Platt National Park, named after Orville H. Platt who was a Connecticut Senator who served on the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Oklahoma was once Indian Territory and these mineral springs were known to the Chickasaw and Choctaw to be “healing” waters. They would come together here to be refreshed and cooled during the summer months. Because the “white” man was beginning to encroach on this Native American place of healing and camping, the tribes approached the 1902 government about taking the area to be turned into a place where everyone was able to us use and enjoy instead of it being taken and used privately. It was then turned into the seventh National Park, Sulphur was moved a little ways from the area and there it sat for many years being used as a health spa complete with golf course.
The was not used for much more than mineral springs, health spas, and cattle grazing until the 1930’s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began to work on the area. The CCC company working on the Platt National Park was Company 808. This company worked on the park creating bridges, making swimming areas, building spring coverings, planting over 60 types of trees and so much more for eight years until they were moved to the Rocky Mountains National Park in 1940. The community of Sulphur was appreciative of these young men and did what they could to help them have a clean, attractive camp by donating many gallons of paint for their barracks.
Even though this was the smallest of all the National Parks, Platt National Park brought in many visitors and helped to create a highway system enabling the masses to visit the area. Unfortunately, because this park was not on the same degree of grandeur as Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks, it was not seen to be of the same superior status. Seventy years after this seventh national park was created, it was no longer a park, but a recreation area. The park was combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area (Lake Arbuckle) being renamed the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Taking time to visit the Sulphur area to enjoy this hidden gem, you will find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area Headquarters/Chickasaw Visitor Center is direct across from the main gate. It is a recent build and rather beautiful. You will find information about the park, local attractions and history; lots and lots of history to be enjoyed here.
Even though this is no longer a national park, you can camp in the campgrounds that were once well visited as Platt National Park. There are three areas: Central Campground, which is ten group campsites; Cold Springs Campground, which is direct across from the Travertine Creek and has 63 sites and open from May through September; and finally, the Rock Creek Campground, where 105 year-round sites can be found near Veterans Lake.
Scott and I have been begging friends and family to meet us halfway between them and us for a time of celebration and relaxation, but they never seem to be interested. Now with the knowledge of this having once been one of the first national parks, I feel an urgency to visit again; I long to camp beneath the trees lovingly planted by Company 808, to swim in the swimming hole where hundreds of thousands have cooled themselves during hot summer days, and to hike the paths once walked by those who had the courage to give up something so special and important to their people to save it for further generations to enjoy.
Taking time to visit the Sulphur area to enjoy this hidden gem, you will find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area Headquarters/Chickasaw Visitor Center is direct across from the main gate. It is a recent build and rather beautiful. You will find information about the park, local attractions and history; lots and lots of history to be enjoyed here. (The photo below is a direct link to their site’s photo; unfortunately, we have not been able to visit the center as of the writing of this post.)
For a very good video on this beautiful park, please click HERE.
If you are interested in a deeper, more intense amount of history about this location, please click HERE.
For the NPR story that caught our attention, click HERE.