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Arbuckle Mountain oasisArbuckle Mountain oasis

Visit Ardmore, Oklahoma Visit Ardmore, Oklahoma

Editor's note: Stop by Ardmore on your way to or from the AOPA Fly-In at Norman, Oklahoma, Sept. 8 and 9.

Ardmore, Oklahoma, just north of the Texas border, offers scenery you wouldn’t expect in this part of the country: mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and forests. Natural swimming pools, hiking and horseback trails, birding, camping, and water sports make the area a perfect warm-weather stop.

  • The Tucker Tower perches high above a pair of Jet skiers as they enjoy a summer day on beautiful Lake Murray. Photo by James Pratt courtesy Oklahoma Tourism.
  • The Line Shack is one of two FBOs at Ardmore Municipal Airport (ADM). Photo courtesy Larry Core.
  • The popular Jake’s Joint restaurant is on the field at Ardmore Municipal Airport (ADM). Photo courtesy Larry Core.
  • A typical summer day at Turner Falls. Photo courtesy City of Davis.
  • “Little Niagara Falls,” inside the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Hikers explore the verdant forest of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • A diorama at the Travertine Nature Center, Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • A fisherman and his loyal (and leashed) companion in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Roasting marshmallows is a timeless American camping tradition and one you can enjoy at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Sunset at the Lake of the Arbuckles, Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Built of local stone, the Chickasaw Cultural Center offers plenty of places for quiet reflection. Photo courtesy Chickasaw Cultural Center.
  • If you don’t care to “rough it,” check into The Artesian, first opened in 1906. Opulent décor and comfortable amenities attracted famous guests like John Wayne and William Howard Taft. The Chickasaw Nation purchased and recently restored the hotel to its original elegance. Photo courtesy The Artesian.
  • At The Artesian, stately guest rooms sport rich, dark woods and deep chocolate and eggplant hues. This is the Hollywood Suite. Photo courtesy The Artesian.
  • Climb the spiral staircase to the Tucker Tower’s observation deck. Photo by James Pratt, courtesy Oklahoma Tourism.
  • From the top of the Tucker Tower, you’ll enjoy gorgeous, 360-degree views of turquoise Lake Murray. Photo by James Pratt, courtesy Oklahoma Tourism.

Ardmore lies 67 nautical miles south-southeast of Norman, Oklahoma, and 86 nm north-northwest of Dallas, Texas, just north of the Texas border. Flying between Norman and Ardmore, look for Turner Falls, the 77-foot waterfall that cascades into a swimming area, part of Turner Falls Park, near Davis. Just south of Turner Falls, the Arbuckle Mountains contain rock that dates back 1.4 billion years. You can land at Ardmore Municipal Airport or Ardmore Executive; both offer excellent fuel prices, although the former has a fun café and better access to car rentals.

Once you have your car you can head north to Turner Falls Park to visit its three caves, unique geological formations, waterfall, and natural swimming pool. Hike along clear streams and look for deer and wild turkeys. Expect crowds at the waterfall and swimming pool in summer; Mondays tend to be less busy. For a quieter day, choose the nearby Chickasaw National Recreation Area, an oasis of forests, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and mineral springs with excellent hiking, camping, and birding opportunities. More than 160 species of birds have been spotted here, and it’s common to see bison grazing on the prairie. You can go fishing on Lake of the Arbuckles, Veterans Lake, and along portions of Rock and Travertine Creeks. Largemouth bass and crappie are common catches. Or, check out the Travertine Nature Center, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired rock structure that sits atop Travertine Creek.

77-foot Turner Falls cascades into the natural swimming pool below. Though usually crowded on summer days, you might have the falls to yourself in winter or early in the morning. Photo by Lisha Newman courtesy Oklahoma Tourism.

Near the town of Sulphur you can take a horseback trail ride in the hills or canyons. The nearby Chickasaw Cultural Center celebrates the rich heritage of the Chickasaw tribe. You’ll find bronze sculptures, native landscaping, a traditional village, blowgun and archery demonstrations, a film, artwork, an exhibit gallery, and a café. In Sulphur, you can stay at the elegant Artesian, now owned by the Chickasaw Nation, which also offers a full-service spa, casino, specialty shops, and two restaurants.

Bison roam in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and you may even see them from your plane. You wouldn’t want to get this close, though. Photo courtesy NPS.

Head south of Ardmore to visit Lake Murray State Park. Rent a pontoon boat, paddle boat, kayak, canoe, wave runner, or two-person sailboat and cruise around the gorgeous blue lake, which is partially spring-fed. They have a miniature golf course too. Climb Tucker Tower, a stone castle-looking building that sits on a rocky cliff above the south shore. A spiral staircase takes you five stories up for great 360-degree views. You also can visit the nature center and geology museum, or swim, golf, hike, or fish. An airstrip lies along the west side of the lake, near Tipps Point campground. Runway 14/32 is 2,500 feet by 50 feet, in fair condition with weeds growing through some cracks and no tiedowns. (There are plans afoot to possibly close it, so call the park first.) Stay in a fun floating lodge on the lake, stay in a cabin or lodge room, or camp near the lake.

Now that you know about the beautiful country between Dallas and Norman/Oklahoma City, make plans to visit the Arbuckle Mountains. Lakes, waterfalls, cultural centers, hiking, boating, and more await!

Share your favorite destination in the AOPA Hangar: Places to fly, things to do, where to eat!

Make a date with Lady Luck at the Artesian Casino in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy The Artesian.
Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as both the managing editor of Pilot Getaways magazine and editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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