Exploring Oklahoma’s National Parks with Kids

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There are three National Park Service sites in the state of Oklahoma. Each one of Oklahoma’s National Parks provide a unique and interesting experience. They also provide a glimpse into the history of this unpredictable land.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

The National Park Visitor center at Washita

The visitors center in Washita is fairly new and is a great place to begin exploring the area. Watch the video shown here because it really explains it’s importance historically. Explore the museum, it is small, but does a great job showing what happened at the site.

Once you have finished drive down the road a short distance. There is a wonderful self guided walking tour of the battlefield. Make sure to grab the book available at the entrance to the trail. It will help you to understand the event that occurred at this site. Take turns reading it aloud as you walk the trail, there are numbers in the book that correlate with numbers along the trail.

Although what happened here was very tragic, it is an important part of American history. Children, as well as adults, can learn from our nations past mistakes. It is a beautiful landscape and once you see it you might understand why the Native American Tribes fought so hard to keep it natural. The trail is easy, our six year old had no problem walking the entire length.

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

The Survivor Tree

On April 19, 1995 an explosion happened in Oklahoma City. Someone set off a bomb that blew up a building. It was an act of violence that killed over 100 people, but hurt many more. The memorial is a place to help people remember this event.

As you enter the memorial through the Gates of Time you will look out over the calm reflecting pool. The Gates of Time signify the minute before and the minute after the explosion. To one side of these is the field of empty chairs and to the other you will see the survivor tree.

Each chair is engraved with the name of a person that lost their life that day. Some of the chairs are smaller than the others, these are for the children. At night they are beautifully lit. Just outside the museum entrance they have chalk and chalkboards. These are for the children to draw or leave a message for the people involved in what happened here.

The survivor tree remains standing even after the explosion that occurred that day. It has survived through fires and many other acts of nature as well. At the end of the field of empty chairs you will also find a wall with the names of the people that survived that day.

This monument is very well done and really makes us think about what occurred at this site. It was so unnecessary and did not solve or change anything for the better. The lesson we were able to teach our children by visiting this site is invaluable.

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Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Enjoying the outdoors is something we love to do as a family. Chickasaw National Recreation Area is a great place for this. There are many trails and all of them are fairly easy. Swimming holes and natural springs are what made this place so unique.

The nature center has a lot of information about the area, mostly the wildlife that can be found. It is built right over the creek. Inside are several animals on display that were fun to see. Even more exciting were all the animals we saw while hiking though.

Just behind the nature center is the trail to both Antelope and Buffalo Springs. The trail is easy and not too long, which is great after spending some time in the nature center. Both springs are so clean and clear, the kids were excited they could drink the water straight from the source.


We ate our lunch while enjoying the view of Buffalo Springs. You can see the water bubbling right up from the ground, it is amazing. The trail extends beyond this spring for even more nature, but there aren’t any more springs. Walk in the other direction from the nature center to get a view of Little Niagara, and, if it’s warm enough, you could even go for a swim.

Bison viewpoint trail is another great trail to hike, but also longer than the spring trail. The climb up to the look out is a little steep, but the trail is fairly level otherwise. If you do go up to the lookout it’s worth the climb because it is a great view of the town.

We were able to see so much wildlife while hiking and camping here. Birds, snakes, bison, toads, and a few others as well. The Buckhorn Campground was clean and quiet while we were there, and the campground host was very friendly. The free, clean, and hot showers were also a bonus after all the hiking.

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Oklahoma’s National Parks each offer something different

Our visit to Oklahoma wouldn’t have been complete without visiting these locations. We learned so much about the state by traveling to each one. Not to mention getting to see several sides of the state too. If you decide to visit with your family don’t forget to pick up some Junior Ranger books. They are a great way to make the most of your experience. Also check out our Favorite Campgrounds to see where we stayed.

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16 Comments

  1. Such a lovely place for outdoorsy people like me! I can see that there are some really nice hiking trails and the kids seemed to be having fun. Lunch at the spot with the natural springs seems like such a great idea!

    Medha Verma
  2. It seems that you guys had a lot of fun in Oklahoma. I would have never thought this state has so many interesting places. I love visiting historic sites and the best one I’ve seen so far was at Williamsburg, Virginia. I strongly recommend it if you like battle reenactments. Great to visit with kids, too.

    1. The Historic Triangle was one of our favorite places on the east coast! When we visited Jamestown we got a tour from an archaeologist. Williamsburg was amazing too. I really liked the governor’s House.

      statebystateadventure@gmail.com
  3. I love taking my kids to such parks, so close to nature. Good happy pics of your family outing.
    The memorial at Oklahoma is a sad reminder of senseless killings. There was a lump in throat when you mentioned some chairs were of smaller size.

  4. I think you are spot on that the best way not to repeat tragedies of the past is to keep the memory and learning from those tragedies alive. As such battle site memorials are definitely of value. Looks like these combine nicely with some relaxation time in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and other National Parks of the state.

  5. I’ve been so intrigued by Oklahoma, but have never been, and didn’t consider taking my kids for a trip there… until now! Chickasaw National Recreation Area would be a big hit with our little ones because they love animals and hiking!

    WorldLillie
  6. Your kids seemed to enjoy themselves very much. I bet they were excited to see wildlife too. How did they react when they saw the snakes? Not afraid, I hope? And I love that photo of the boy cardinal. He looks so cute.

    1. My daughter pointed out the snake, he was a juvenile on the path sunning himself after a cold winter. We would have stepped on it, but she saved the day and everyone was happy to see it. We love all wildlife and get excited to see any animal when hiking.

      statebystateadventure@gmail.com

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