There are 3 great National Parks in Oklahoma along with three affiliated areas. The parks include Chickasaw NRS, Fort Smith National Historic Site that is also located in Arkansas and Washita Battlefield NHS.
National Parks in Oklahoma
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Chickasaw NRA is located in southern Oklahoma approximately 75 miles south of Oklahoma City. The park is open year-round and offers hiking, boating, swimming and tons of outdoor recreation.
Starting in 1902 this area was federally protected as Sulphur Springs Reservation. The park was created to protect both mineral and freshwater springs. Over time the park was also called Platt National Park. It was combined with Arbuckle Recreation and renamed Chickasaw NRA in 1976.
Visitors can still see picnic shelters and campgrounds built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) during the 1930s. The park is a great road trip from Oklahoma City and offers the opportunity to enjoy mineral springs in the heart of Oklahoma.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith NHS is located in west-central Arkansas within the town of Fort Smith. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to tour the foundations of the original fort.
If you want to experience the real “Old West,” then a trip to Fort Smith National Historic Site on the Oklahoma border is in store. The site of two important frontier forts, Fort Smith is perhaps best known as the headquarters of the “Hanging Judge” of the Old West.
It was here that U.S. District Judge Isaac C. Parker sent more than 70 outlaws to the gallows during the rough and tumble days following the Civil War. Parker’s deputy marshals provided the inspiration for such Hollywood classics as “True Grit,” “Rooster Cogburn” and “Hang Em High.” Ironically, Parker opposed the death penalty but in cases of murder and rape, U.S. law allowed him only one sentence – death.
The National Historic Site features ruins and buildings from the original fort, the notorious “Hell on the Border” jail, Parker’s courtroom, exhibits on the deputy marshals and outlaws of Fort Smith and the reconstructed gallows where so many outlaws met their fates.
Oklahoma City National Memorial – Affiliated Site
The Oklahoma City NM is located in the heart of Oklahoma City. The park is open year-round and is located next to the Oklahoma City National Museum.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors the 168 people killed in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. History. Along with the survivors, rescue workers and those changed forever by this tragedy.
On April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed when a bomb was detonated.
The OKC memorial was dedicated in 2000 on the anniversary of the attack 5 years before.
If you are heading to Oklahoma City check out my wife Tammilee’s post on the top things to do in Oklahoma City!
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Washita Battlefield NHS is located in western Oklahoma approximately 150 miles west of Oklahoma City. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to explore a self-guided trail to a village site.
The conflict between Plains Indian tribes and settlers moving west in 1968 reached a tipping point. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer led a surprise attack on a Southern Cheyenne village on November 27, 1968. The village was located on the Washita River in western Oklahoma.
What happened during the battle is still debated. The noted Peace Chief Black Kettle was killed during the attack along with a number of Cheyenne women and children.
The park offers the opportunity to visit the location of the Cheyenne village along with tour the visitor center. Washita Battlefield NHS was one of the least visited national park sites in 2018.
List of Oklahoma National Parks
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Fort Smith National Historic Site
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
- Oklahoma City National Memorial
- Sante Fe National Historic Trail
- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (AL, AR, GA, IL, KY, MO, NC, OK, TN)
There are 3 national parks in Oklahoma that receive over 1.6 million visitors a year. These visitors produce over $27 million in economic benefits from tourism.
The Oklahoma National Parks include 2 National Trails managed by the National Park Service, 1,290 National Register of Historic Places Listings, and 22 National Historic Landmarks.
The National Parks in Oklahoma also includes 3 National Natural Landmarks, 147 places recorded by the Heritage Documentation Program and over 211K objects in the Oklahoma National Park museum collection.
National Parks in neighboring states
Check out this full printable list of the 61 US National Parks in Alphabetical Order.
If you have always wanted to be a Park Ranger check out this article on how to become a park ranger.