Adventure Summer Part 1: Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Summer 2018 was a cool time for Elizabeth and myself. We had both just finished our sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma. I was working a part-time job in Norman over the summer, while she had to take differential equations as part of our major track. The differential equations class took place in just four weeks during June and early July, so it was a stressful month for us.

Elizabeth’s final exam was during the morning on July 7. From there on out, the summer belonged to us! To celebrate, we decided to go on an adventure. Chickasaw National Recreation Area is about an hour south of Norman near Sulphur, Oklahoma in the Arbuckle Mountains. The area is teeming with forests and spring-fed streams. Perhaps the most famous area in the park is Little Niagara Falls, where Travertine Creek tumbles several feet over a rocky face. The water is 62 to 64 degrees year-round, which feels heavenly during the July humidity.

Elizabeth and I arrived mid-afternoon – and ended up unable to find parking. For a very long time. The park is somewhat lacking in available spaces, and on a Friday in the summer was obviously quite busy, so we had to loop around the Little Niagara area a few times before we could find a spot. Eventually, we punted and decided to park along the side of the road and walk over.

The swimming hole area itself is interesting – there’s a pebbly beach of sorts on the south bank, with large rocks leading down to the water and plentiful space for grilling, sitting in lawn chairs, or having a picnic. And boy, was everyone taking advantage of it. We managed to find a spot that didn’t have anybody *too* close, and set them out under the shade of a tree. After changing into my swimsuit (Chickasaw NRA has some gross bathrooms), we decided to join the dozens of others in the water.

The day was steamy from the July heat and a thunderstorm earlier in the day. For me, a Midwesterner, the first step into the water was exactly the cool refreshing feel that summer should represent. For Elizabeth, used to the warmer waters of the East Coast, it proved to be somewhat less so. We splashed around in the knee-deep water just upstream of the waterfall to let her acclimate. But, since I retain much of my childish exuberance, I wanted to jump off of Little Niagara. Together, we stepped out onto the rock face, and from there I’ll let the video say the rest.

We explored the rapids just downstream of the falls for another little while, before enjoying the afternoon in our lawn chairs. We wanted to see Lake of the Arbuckles, so one (confusing) drive later we ended up on the “beach” of the lake, passing the late afternoon on our chairs and watching boats out on the water. The day proved to be an exciting adventure made all the more perfect by Elizabeth finishing her difficult class, and with the next six weeks ahead of us to explore it is easy to remember this fondly as one of the happiest days I’ve had in college.

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