This was a special stop on our recent long haul trip. We had a little bit of time to play with and we were looking to explore a different area than we’d previously been. We also like to break up our travel days with something fun. Our ideal travel day doesn’t cover more than 250 miles and has something fun for the kids at the end of the long day. Unfortunately, we recently had three days where we covered a lot more ground than we like. When we have long haul days we typically drive until roughly midnight of whatever time zone we are currently adjusted to. It helps us minimize the time that they realize they are stuck in car seats and Jordan and I can drive for more than an hour without needing to stretch our legs or use the potty. Sadly, we only had so much control over the timing of our last long haul. In retrospect we wished we would have done the trip backwards and shuffled our scheduling to allow that, but… lesson learned for next time.

We broke our crazy long drive up with a day and a half in Ooooooklahoma. I might have sang that. I know you choir kids can relate to me and if you’re married to a choir kid, I can imagine the same look that I get for Jordan when I sing things like that!

We try to take advantage of National Parks, Recreation Areas, and Monuments whenever it’s possible. We also just wanted a different view that we’ve had on our last two road trips through Texas. My (Brooke) Grandmother was raised int he area so it made it extra special to explore. We didn’t have as much time in the area as we would have liked, but it was much better than none at all. We didn’t explore town much or at all really. We visited the visitors center and the the NRA and sat our happy booties in the campground glad that we weren’t covering hundreds of miles.

We stayed at Shady Oaks Campground and RV park and had a good experience there overall. I’ll update that info and you’ll be able to read more on another post shortly.

The boys played well into the night with the new Kinetic Sand that Fletcher received for his birthday and Jordan and I just enjoyed watching them play and grilling a late dinner.

The boys and I took the stroller and had a quick playground date the next morning. Jord was packing up most of our gear and working on something, but I can’t remember what. I do know that we don’t like to move daily. We don’t even love to move weekly. When you minimize and pack smart to put all your belongings in a travel trailer and truck bed you become amazing at Tetris. Every piece has a specific home so it doesn’t rattle or slide or bounce and break something and unpacking and repacking, even just the minimum, is a pain. He unstrapped our amazing stroller (but that’s for another post) so I could trek the boys down and back up another hill. Fully knowing that within 45 minutes he’d be loading it back up. That’s love guys. This man is more patient than I ever deserve.

We loaded the boys in the truck and put the girls in the perfectly frigid trailer so we could go explore. We made our way the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and it was more gorgeous that we could have imagined. (For 70 years it was even classified as a National Park.) It’s so funny because you hear over and over from travel families that you expect them to start looking the same and somehow they don’t! How is it possible that we’ve been to at least TEN of these areas just in the Midwest and no two have been the same or even similar!

Chickasaw has forest and prairie areas. The boys were amazed that you could have both in the same area and so intertwined. We did a short circle hike due to our limited time and their short leg length. We did get to cross a fairly wide creek and the big boys thought it was fantastic! The beginning and end of the hike was in the wooded area and much cooler due to the shade. The middle section was up a little higher and overlooking a prairie. You could tell the difference in temperature almost immediately as you switched landscape. The boys spotted spiders, and flowers and looked for birds and bison.

The boys favorite park of the hike. The water moved surprising fast and we did keep a good grip on the boys as we crossed. Not to mention the rocks were a little wet and slick.

Once we got back to the visitors center we worked to finish their junior ranger books. The visitors centers are just as different as the parks and this one was great. There was a bevy of activities for the kids to enjoy and touch and see. Our kids are very hands on and we love that the National Parks system encourages them to be! this table was just inside the door and the first place we were drawn to explore.

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This little discovery table had multiple magnifying glasses and was full of everything from giant leaves to dried bugs to inspect.

We’re a little snobby about mounts. We are big outdoor advocates and see many of these animals in the wild regularly. We’re always a little surprised at the renditions we see if we look very closely.

A good amount of the displays in this visitors center are aquariums. being that you are studying a forest area with a huge creek, that’s pretty understandable. We looked at fish, frogs, and even turtles. There were also a good amount of snakes. I’m not a snake person and certainly NOT a giant snake person. YUCK!

This snake was nearly as tall as Jordan. That’s my cue to leave. EW!

On of our favorite parts of this are was the creek running under the building. Not only does it make for a great view and picturesque place to work on your ranger book, but it’s so uncommon that it’s mesmerizing. How many buildings have creeks they are built right over?

Sitting in front of the creek and being shaded by the massive trees was unimaginable. I would take this as our classroom daily!

The boys drawing the badge for the park in their books.

After completing their books and earning their badges we stopped at the spring on the hill. It was a sulfur spring and smelled just as terrible as you’d expect. We quickly understood why the nearby town was called sulfur.

The boys examining the Spring on the Hill. They loved the bubbling. They did not love the smell.

This was a great stop and we’d like to come back to the area when we have more time. We could have easily spent three or four days at the NRA alone. If your travel can be adjusted to visit, do yourself a favor and make it happen.

Bonus Tips:
If you plan to swim at the NRA you need to purchase tickets. It was also a zoo and possible that you need to purchase tickets in advance to insure you can swim in the desired area. There were other areas that were free to swim in, but it was insanely crowded. We did visit on a Saturday since that’s how our travel lined up and likely you’ll have better luck during the week!

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is right near the area too. There is one building on the property that costs to enter, but the rest is free and open to the public and locals raved about it. On another trip we will definitely explore that too.

Pick up your Junior Ranger book before exploring the visitors center. We often forget this and then we have to back track because we didn’t look at certain things in depth enough to answer the questions.

Our Suggested Gear for this trip…