What To Do This Summer

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For the Tree Hugging Nature Lovers

When it comes to nature, Oklahoma is all about exploration and preservation.

Little Saraha State Park, Waynoka. Photo courtesy Little Sarah State Park.
Little Saraha State Park, Waynoka. Photo courtesy Little Sarah State Park.

[dropcap]With[/dropcap] its diverse terrain – from prairies to mountains, to caves and even a desert, more shoreline than anywhere else in the U.S., and mild temperatures, enabling year-round adventure and fun. This great state has it all for the outdoor enthusiast! After a day of activity, enjoy camping under the stars in a sleeping bag, tent or, okay – a fully furnished RV. S’mores, anyone?

Yes, we said desert!  You will find over 1,600 acres of it at Little Sahara State Park located south of Waynoka in northwest Oklahoma. This desert in the heartland features sand dunes ranging in height from 25 to 75 feet. Thrill-seeking off-roaders come from miles around for the main attraction: dune buggy, dirt bike and ATV riding. The park offers RV and tent sites. Just remember – if you are looking for peace and quiet, this is not for you, as the off-roading continues both day and night.

Live like an outlaw at Robbers Cave State Park – the former hideout of Jesse James and Belle Starr. This park is located near Wilburton in the scenic Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma, and is a favorite go to for rappellers, equestrians and hikers. The park offers miles of hiking and equestrian trails, rugged cliffs for climbing and an ATV riding area. The Park offers fully equipped cabins, RV sites and primitive camping. Equestrian campsites are available, so bring the family horse!

Lost Creek Safari, Stillwater.
Lost Creek Safari, Stillwater. Photo courtesy Lost Creek Safari.

Live the lake life at one of the state’s “big three.” Our stunning state is covered with more than a million surface acres of water! Lake Tenkiller in Cookson, Grand Lake in Grove and Lake Eufaula are all sure bets for lake fun. Enjoy scenic views, swimming beaches, fishing, boating and other water sport action – even scuba diving. At the end of the day, pitch a tent and enjoy the best of waterfront camping!

Pick your form of flotation –  an inflatable raft, kayak or traditional canoe and spend a day on the scenic Illinois River just outside of Tahlequah. The Illinois offers a gentle current through the Cookson Hills of northeastern Oklahoma with numerous outfitters available to assist you with your trip – six to 70 miles.

Animal lovers can take a walk on the wild side at Lost Creek Safari, a small exotic animal park in Stillwater. In addition to various breeds of exotic deer, visitors will see African crested porcupines, red kangaroo, Grant’s zebra, ring-tailed lemurs, spider monkeys and capuchins and various types of birds, including the three largest breeds in the world – a rhea, emu and ostrich. You might even get a kiss from the resident camel, Gilbert!

The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Jet is one of nine National Wildlife Refuges in the state, and serves as an excellent destination for bird and wildlife watchers as well as gem seekers! The winter months are a great time for eagle viewing. Visit the refuge between the months of April and October and dig for unique selenite crystals to take home as a souvenir!

Enjoy a two-mile drive through the 3,700 acre Woolaroc Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville. This working ranch is home to more than 30 varieties of native and exotic animals and birds. Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Company, created the preserve in 1925. Great care has been taken to provide the optimum environment for the animals, which roam freely. The preserve is best known for its buffalo herd that dates back to 1926.

Natural Bridge Caverns. Natural Bridge, Texas. Photo courtesy Natural Bridge Caverns.
Natural Bridge Caverns. Natural Bridge, Texas. Photo courtesy Natural Bridge Caverns.

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Discover  aquatic creatures of all kinds in more than 100 exhibits at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. See saltwater seahorses, jellyfish and eels and explore the amazing array of wildlife that call the state’s freshwater rivers and lakes home. Pet stingrays, feed turtles and walk through a transparent, underwater tunnel to safely visit some of the biggest bull sharks in captivity!

For out-of-state outdoor adventures, visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Located in the Texas Panhandle, the park features the second largest canyon in the country, nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of Texas.” With more than 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, adventurers can explore the canyon by foot, mountain bike, horse or car. A variety of campsites and cabins are available for those who choose to make a weekend of it!

In Texas, the Dallas World Aquarium is worth the day-trip.  What was previously an old warehouse in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas is now a rainforest home to a variety of exotic birds,  sloths, crocodiles, giant river otters, Antillean manatees and monkeys. The aquarium also features interesting marine life and penguins in the South Africa exhibit!

Also located in Texas is Natural Bridge Caverns in New Braunfels. Bring out your inner spelunker and participate in the “Discovery “ or “Hidden Passages” tour and learn about the massive cave formations that were created by single drops of water over millions of years. Above ground, take the “Canopy Challenge” or maneuver your way through the 5,000-square-foot “AMAZEn’ Ranch Roundup.”

Oklahoma Aquarium, Jenks. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Aquarium.
Oklahoma Aquarium, Jenks. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Aquarium.

Another adventure stop for “cavers” is Arkansas’ Blanchard Springs Caverns. Located in the Ozark National Forest, Blanchard Springs is touted as one of the most spectacular caves found anywhere in the world. Beautifully lighted rooms highlight impressive stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones. The cave also features an undeveloped section, allowing visitors the opportunity to climb over rocks, crawl through tight spaces and slide on clay mudslides.

Visit New Mexico and venture beneath the rocky slopes of the Guadalupe Mountain range to discover an underground treasure – Carlsbad Caverns National Park. With more than 117 known caves, the park is home to some of the largest and most visited caves in the country. Over 300,000 visitors travel to Carlsbad Caverns each year to witness the stunning rock formations.

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