State parks, museums offer fun for families

Riders sit on the crest of a sand dune while waiting their turn to catch some air at Little Sahara State Park near Waynoka. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

The great outdoors and museums of Northwest Oklahoma can provide a fun afternoon away for the whole family.

Great Salt Plains

One of the most popular locations less than an hour away is Great Salt Plains State Park, north of Jet.

“Great Salt Plains State Park is one of Oklahoma’s most unique state parks. The barren landscape of (part of) the nearby Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of salt left over from an ocean that covered Oklahoma in prehistoric times, and the saltwater lake in the park, Great Salt Plains Lake, is about half as salty as the ocean,” according to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s website, travelok.com 

Visitors to the park can partake in numerous activities, including swimming in Great Salt Plains Lake, trekking along various trails, riding horses on designated trails, fishing, canoing and kayaking.

A popular activity is crystal digging at the selenite crystal dig area southwest of the lake in the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. The digging area is open April 1 to Oct. 15 from sunrise to sunset.

“Oklahoma is the only place in the world where the hourglass-shaped selenite crystal can be found,” tourism officials said. While searching for crystals, visitors can spy some of more than 300 species of protected birds that live in or migrate through the refuge.

Visitors also can stay multiple days in cabins or by camping. For information, the park office can be reached at (580) 626-4731.

Gloss Mountain

Another nearby park to explore is Gloss Mountain State Park, north of Fairview off U.S. 412.

While there are no lodging or campsites at the park, there are hiking trails and picnic areas open from sunrise to sunset. Park facilities include a restroom, pavilions, picnic areas, grills, public water supply and a handicap-accessible trail. For more information about the park, call (580) 227-2512.

Sod House

Sod House Museum, off Oklahoma 8 between Aline and Cleo Springs, “seeks to preserve Oklahoma’s only remaining sod house and interprets the early-day lifestyles of a pioneer, from the establishment of the Cherokee Outlet in 1893 to 1920,” according to Oklahoma Historical Society.

The museum encloses an original sod house. Visitors can explore the soddy, exhibits, artifacts, photographs and a root cellar. The museum offers exhibits, tours, educational programs and special events and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For information, call (580) 463-2441, email sodhouse@okhistory.org or go to ok.history.org/sites/sod house.

Little Sahara

More unique landscape can be explored at Little Sahara State Park in Waynoka. The park features more than 1,600 acres of sand dunes ranging in size of 25 to 75 feet. The park includes RV sites with water and electricity, 143 tent sites, picnic areas, showers and seasonal concessions, according to travelok.com

The main attraction for visitors is riding buggies and ATVs across the many sand dunes. Visitors can bring private vehicles or vendors offer rentals. Cost is $10 a day for all drivers and passengers to get on the sand, with no cost for passengers under age 10. For information, contact the park’s office at (580) 824-1471.

Alabaster Caverns

For some of the more adventurous, underground caves are waiting to be explored at Alabaster Caverns State Park, south of Freedom along Oklahoma 50A. The highlight of the 200-acre park is a walk-through cavern formed of alabaster, a rare form of gypsum. It is the largest natural gypsum cave in the world open to the public and the only gypsum show cave in the United States.

Daily guided tours of Alabaster Cavern leave on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a fee charged for each tour. The park includes 11 RV sites, 12 tent sites, hiking trails, picnic areas, group shelters with electricity, grills, water and a volleyball court, according to travelok.com.

Alabaster Caverns includes four caves especially for the activity of wild caving, or spelunking, with the caves ranging in lengths of 550 to 1,600 feet. Permits are available for purchase at the park office. For information and pricing on the park, call the park’s office at (580) 621-3381.

Roman Nose

One of the state’s original seven state parks, Roman Nose State Park, can be found off Oklahoma 8A north of Watonga.

Three natural springs flow from underground, and the park features numerous canyons and gypsum rock cliffs for hiking and biking. Visitors can play an 18-hole golf course, swim in the park pool, fish in or ride in canoes or paddle boats in two lakes, or ride their horses or arrange for horseback and hay rides by reservation. Visitors can stay at Roman Nose State Park Lodge, or their are camping and RV facilities.

For information on the park and pricing, the park’s office can be reached at (580) 623-7281.

Territorial tours

Oklahoma Territorial Museum, 406 E. Oklahoma in Guthrie, offers exhibits and tours.

“The museum documents the creation of the Unassigned Lands, the Land Run of 1889, the homestead experience and territorial and state government. The history of Guthrie is told as the capital city of the territorial government and the first state capital,” according to the museum’s website.

For information and pricing, call (405) 282-1889 or go to www.okterritorialmuseum.org/.

Detailed information on other parks and museums in the Northwest Oklahoma area and across the state can be seen at https://www.travelok.com/ and https://www.okmuseums.org.