Nature Experience #12 – Feature: Osage Hills State Park

The flowing water of Sand Creek runs in trickles and torrents, flowing over the bed of limestone rocks in ever descending levels, stopping to swirl and eddy in the shallows before hurrying along to join in with the next rush of water. Here, in  northeastern Osage County Oklahoma, is a place where time stands still, Osage Hills State Park.

Native trees like post oak, black willow, hackberry, sassafrass, walnut and pecan line the sandy banks of Sand Creek,  shading the pools and ripples where minnows and sunfish lurk, watching for a juicy insect to eat. There is no beach here, but there are plenty of large limestone boulders, enough to sit on, lie on or fish from. The water is not deep, but it can move fast. This is no place for a canoe, or even a kayak.

But there is Lookout Lake, and those activities will work just fine there. Small boats can put in from the shore, or from a small dock. Boats are available for rent. Fishing is fine, if you have the required state fishing permit. The lake is quiet, peaceful and picturesque. Big enough for a good float, but as there are no motorized boats, no wakes to worry about.
 
A hiking trail winds its way around the lake, passing under huge trees and around mossy rocks, passing ferns, ivy and wildflowers. The trail continues across the dam of Lookout Lake, and connects with the park’s trail system, which crisscrossing much of the 1100 acre park. Hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy trails that are sometimes challenging, travelling over rocky, hilly terrain. (As always suggested when hiking in both timber and grassland, liberally dose yourself with insect repellant. Closed-toed shoes are best, and wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt. Carry water, a small first aid kit, sunglasses, hat and sun lotion.)

And for those who have had enough of the realities of nature, there is a ball field, a tennis court and a swimming pool! This is a great place for families, with accommodations available for RVs and tents. Eight cabins with kitchens and fireplaces can be reserved, and larger groups may use the group camp. A couple of times I have stayed in the cabins, and although they aren’t fancy, they offer a getaway unlike any other. Expect to see deer, raccoons and even wild turkey out your window as the sun sets, and again as it rises. I have fond memories or using the outdoor grill, and cozying up by the fireplace on a chilly autumn night.

One truly great thing about this state park is the history behind it. The Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the WPA programs of the 1930s, constructed the cabins and the picnic pavillions. Ruins of old bath houses also built at this time can be found in the park. The CCC used the rugged local stone for building, and created lasting, picturesque building with huge wooden beams throughout this park and several others in Oklahoma.

For more information about this great park, located 9 miles west of Bartlesville on Highway 60, go to www.oklahomaparks.com and use the park finder feature.

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