Oklahoma has some truly great state parks | Entertainment

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Continuing my look at various Oklahoma State Parks, the two I am focusing on in this article really are great parks. Yes, they are great, literally — Great Plains State Park in Mountain Park in southwestern Oklahoma and Great Salt Plains State Park in Jet, which is in the northwest part of the state.

Great Plains State Park is nestled in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains and is just west of the National Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. The park has 470 acres in which to enjoy and can best be described as nice and quiet, and, like many parks, Great Plains is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the beautiful natural views.

You have 34 tent sites and 58 RV sites from which to choose, and it’s easy to make reservations online for Great Plains State Park just by going to gocampok.com. All the RV sites are on the online reservation system.

The big star of the park, I think, is the Tom Steed Reservoir, a 6,400-acre, beautiful lake with 45 miles of shoreline. A very good fishing lake, you can go after walleye and catfish, but you can also find some recreational boating and personal watercraft and boarding.

There is another gem in this park that many folks consider a bonus, and I use the word “gem” purposefully because on the northeast side of the park is the site of a 115-year-old abandoned mine.

The Gold Bells Mill and Mine is part of Oklahoma history and is in the northeast section of the park that was built in 1903, operated in the area and eventually closed in 1914. Today, if you want to explore the mine area, you will need to use caution because rattlesnakes are known to inhabit the ruins of the Gold Bells mine.

While at Great Plains State Park, one can expect not only serenity, but also a relaxing environment from which to escape the hectic pace of city life.

You can also find peace and quiet and natural beauty at Great Salt Plains State Park in Jet in the northwest part of the state.

The park offers RV and tent camping, and six remodeled cabins are available to make your visit quite cozy. One popular pastime is bird watching, with the best times being in the fall and spring.

But another activity that is enjoyable and unique takes place just adjacent to the park at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge and that is digging for salient crystals, which is a form of gypsum. This is the only place in the world, which officials know of, that these crystals form the hourglass shape inside. And people from all over the world go there to dig for those crystals.

Another draw to the park is the dam, or as it is referred to, the spillway. It was built as part of the Flood Control Act of 1936. This is the kind of destination where water flowing through the spillway can create a memory, a story, a place in time. I’ve stood there staring at the spillway, captivated by its power. By the way, the spillway at Great Salt Plains State Park is unique because it is automatic.

Every rock found around the spillway and parts of the lake were placed there by hand. And in case you were wondering, you will find some mighty good fishing there with three kinds of catfish — channel, blue and flatheads. You’ll also find carp.

One important element Great Salt Plains State Park and Great Plains State Park have in common is both are wonderful destinations to bring your family. The peaceful, alluring surroundings, along with the various activities and fishing in both parks, make them great places to visit.

For a list of all the state parks, go to the official website of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, travelok.com.

Dino Lalli is the producer, co-host and one of the reporters for the weekly television travel show Discover Oklahoma.

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Dino Lalli is the producer, co-host and one of the reporters for the weekly television travel show Discover Oklahoma.

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