Broken Bow is the second fastest growing travel destination in the United States
When I hear Kansans talk about going to the lake in Oklahoma, most of the time they go to Grand Lake in the northeast corner of the state. While researching vacation rentals earlier this year, another Okie Lake caught my eye.
The area around Broken Bow Lake in far southeastern Oklahoma topped Vrbo’s list of passable U.S. destinations for 2021 published in its annual trends report. The online vacation rental market has since reported that for Memorial Day getaways, Broken Bow was the second fastest growing travel destination in the United States, squeezed between St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Grand Teton, Wyoming.
I needed to see what elevated Broken Bow in this set of upscale vacation destinations, especially since it’s only 585 miles from Wichita, which is about six hours.
We scheduled our trip to Broken Bow for the end of March, after Spring Break from Dallas (190 miles), Tulsa (200 miles), Oklahoma City (250 miles) and nearby Arkansas would be back home and before. that summer prices do not start.
The first surprise was the type of vacation rentals we found available. I expected more rustic traditional cabins than the modern, well-appointed homes we found. According to AirDNA’s short-term vacation rental data, the number of rentals in the Broken Bow area has grown from around 600 in late 2018 to almost 1,800 today. This means plenty of newly built properties and amenities, ranging from furnished game rooms to fully equipped outdoor spaces.
We’ve found great options on Airbnb.com and Vrbo.com (stands for vacation rental by owner), as well as vacation rental management companies specializing in Broken Bow area properties. Part of the fun of the trip was the planning phase and exploring all of these rentals. We settled on Hidden Solace, one of four luxury log cabins (with two more under construction) that a Dallas owner is developing as Rivers Bluff Cabins.
The drive from Wichita to Southeast Oklahoma can be beautiful, especially if you take extra time and plan your route to take at least part of the Talimena National Scenic Byway. We walked about half of the way to our cabin; at the end of March the views weren’t green yet but were amazing, and we could see this would be a perfect walk for the fall foliage.
This part of Oklahoma is part of the Ouachita Mountains and the Kiamichi Mountains which are found in the Ouachita National Forest which stretches all the way to Arkansas. Beavers Bend State Park was established in 1937, but Broken Bow Lake was not formed until 1960, when a dam was built to flood the original town of Hochatown and create Lake 22 miles long and 14,000 acres.
Hochatown, a former Choctaw Indian village and considered the moonlight capital of Oklahoma during Prohibition, has been rebuilt along State Highway 59 and is where you’ll find restaurants, attractions, and shopping. of gifts, many of which embody the region’s Bigfoot legend. Further south along Highway 59 is the town of Broken Bow, with a population of just over 4,000.
Our cabin was about 25 miles north of major area attractions, a bit of a drive, but we liked that it was secluded and close to the Mountain Fork River. Vaccinations had not yet rolled out to the masses so we booked a property that would be fun whether we were exploring the area or just staying at the cabin. Hidden Solace had lovely interior spaces, as well as a covered patio with a hot tub, TV, fireplace, seating area, and grill so we could cook our own meals. We also had our own fire pit, a supply of firewood, and the use of kayaks and river floats assigned to our cabin.
We spent a full day reading and relaxing at the chalet, taking short walks around the property. The remainder of our time in the area, we spent part of our days exploring Beavers Bend State Park and Broken Bow Lake, as well as the towns of Broken Bow and Hochatown. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 virus, we have spent our time hiking or driving in the area – enough to see that the rumors are true that the area presents itself as a miniature Branson.
By this I mean there is a mixture of natural and man-made attractions and it all comes together in one concentrated area.
Along the highway there are breweries, distilleries and wineries; as well as family attractions such as Beaver’s Bend Mining Company, where you can dig for bones and a pan for gold, and MAZE, a 29,000 square foot outdoor wooden maze that opened this year.
We had take out from Grateful Head Pizza and had the best meal we have ever had in a state park on the bridge of Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen, which is part of a family-owned catering business with eight locations , including four Oklahoma state parks. (Don’t pass up the ‘squatch balls.)
Beavers Bend State Park spans 3,482 acres along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River. We hiked four trails in the park:
Forest Heritage Tree Trail is an easy 1.8 mile loop along Beaver Creek from the Forest Heritage Center, the park’s visitor center. This is also where we paid our parking fees (there is no entrance fee for the park).
Cedar Bluff Nature Trail is a 1.6 mile loop that offers stunning views of the river and also provides access to the David Boren Hiking Trail, a network of smaller trails that can be combined for longer hikes.
Lakeview Lodge Trail is made up of three loops allowing you to travel from 0.4 miles to 6 miles.
We loved the Friends Trail Loop, a moderate 1.5 mile hike established in 2019 so much that we hiked it twice, seeing the rock formations, trees and a section of the Lower Mountain Fork River in both ways.
Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, water sports, beach swimming, miniature golf, zipline, and fishing. The lake is one of the state’s largest freshwater lakes and is a year-round fishing ground known for bass and trout downstream from the Lower Mountain Fork River Dam.
If you are going to
Broken Bow, Oklahoma – Beavers Bend State Park and Broke Bow Lake, southeast Oklahoma, approximately 385 miles from Wichita
Find daily updates from Beavers Bend State Park at www.facebook.com/beaversbend.statepark and information on park activities and camping at okstateparks.camp/BeaversBend