Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Overview

Many retaliatory acts occurred in the aftermath of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, leading the U.S. Army to launch a campaign against the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa following the signing of several peace treaties.  In November 1868, after unsuccessfully seeking protection at Fort Cobb, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Big Mouth returned to their winter villages in the Washita River Valley.  The very next day a surprise attack was launched by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, capturing 53 and killing thirty to sixty Cheyennes, including Black Kettle and his wife.  Under Major General Philip Sheridan’s policy of “total war,” approximately 800 horses were then slaughtered and the village burned. 

Highlights

Museum, film, interpretive trail

Must-Do Activity

The events that took place the morning of November 27, 1868 in western Oklahoma have been described either as a battle or a massacre.  A small National Park Service (NPS) visitor center with exhibits on the events is shared with the U.S. Forest Service’s Black Kettle National Grassland.  Located just down the road on Highway 47 is a self-guided walking tour of the prairie battlefield. 

Best Trail

The 1.4-mile hiking trail through the battlefield leaves from an overlook of the historic site down to the Washita River where trees grow.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The vegetation is typical of Oklahoma prairie with grasses, yucca, and Indian blanket (in bloom in late May).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/waba/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, or you can head 25 miles southeast to Foss State Park.

Related Sites

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Montana)

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument (Texas)

Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)

Explore More – When was this National Historic Site authorized by Congress?

Fort Smith National Historic Site

Overview

Along a segment of the Arkansas River serving as a border with Oklahoma, Fort Smith is a lovely 35-acre park surrounded by a bustling downtown and busy railroad track.  The first fort at this site was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears.  A second fort was built nearby in 1838, occupied by both sides during the Civil War, then closed in 1871 when it became a Federal Court.

Highlights

Museum, restored courtroom, “Hell-on-the-Border” jail, Arkansas River

Must-Do Activity

The exhibits here demonstrate the harsh prison conditions and tell harrowing stories of frontier life that will make you cringe.  Do not miss the “Hell-on-the-Border” jail in the basement and the restored courtroom.  Outside, a reproduction of the gallows and several cannon emplacements provide a counterpoint to the idyllic riverfront setting. 

Best Trail

A half-mile trail crosses the railroad tracks to the banks of the Arkansas River.  The scenic beauty of the shoreline at sunset belies the turbulent history of this place, including its connection with the Trail of Tears, designated a National Historic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Take a photo in the painstakingly restored courtroom where Judge Isaac C. Parker heard 12,000 criminal cases during his 21 years on the bench in the late 1800s.  He sentenced 160 persons to hang, and 79 executions took place right here at Fort Smith.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fosm/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is free parking on site.

Camping

Two miles north of Barling, Arkansas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a campground on the Arkansas River.

Related Sites

Arkansas Post National Memorial (Arkansas)

Fort Scott National Historic Site (Kansas)

Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

Explore More – Fort Smith was established in 1817 to assist in the Cherokee relocation at the end of the Trail of Tears, but what American Indian tribe already inhabited this region?

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Overview

In 1976, Platt National Park was combined with the nearby reservoir at Arbuckle National Recreation Area to form Chickasaw National Recreation Area, named for the neighboring Chickasaw Nation of central Oklahoma.  The trails and infrastructure in the park were predominantly built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

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Highlights

Natural springs, bison herd, Lincoln Bridge, reservoir

Must-Do Activity

Visitors should start at the Travertine Nature Center, then visit the bison pasture and “take the waters” at Vendome Well.  Other diverse recreational opportunities include camping and water sports on the Lake of the Arbuckles.

Best Trail

Take the trail from the Travertine Nature Center to Antelope Springs and photogenic Buffalo Springs.  There is also loop trail around the bison pasture.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The U.S. Mint quarter (see photo below) for Oklahoma depicts the Lincoln Bridge built by the CCC, but it can be difficult to photograph through the trees.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/chic/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except in Bluestem Prairie.

Camping

Multiple campgrounds, including several on the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles.

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The adventurous road to Travertine Nature Center.

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There is a lot to learn inside the Travertine Nature Center.

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The acorn caps from bur oak trees are huge.

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You have to try the sulphurous water fountain at Vendome Well.

Explore More – What was the original name for this federally protected area in 1902?

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