Tenkiller State Park has a well deserved nickname of “Heaven in the Hills.” Crystal-clear water draws water-sport lovers, fishermen, and even scuba divers to this lake surrounded by majestic tall trees high above in the Cookson Hills.
I really took to heart the message from the sign I saw at the Nature center – here’s a portion of it:
“The lake before you was once a forested valley through which the Illinois River flowed… Take a moment and imagine how this valley appeared to Cherokee travelers of the 1800’s. This ridge on which you now stand was likely the location of a trail used by these people as they approached the river crossing. Listen to the breeze as it flows across the water. Although many pathways are kept secret underneath this lake, the old stories of this land may reach you through the gentle rhythm of a wave, or the whispering of the wind.”
September 2006 – Blue Jay Knob Campground – This was the campground of choice for my stay. It’s 3 miles from the visitor’s center down a winding road with top speeds of 25 mph, but it was definitely worth the trip to arrive home to such views. This was the best spot in my opinion – a massive site with serene surroundings.
I was here the week before the Labor Day holiday, so I had this entire loop all to myself – well except for the deer, who were more than welcome neighbors! There are 23 sites here with water and 30 amp electric – the yellow poles of the dump station are seen here behind the deer’s site of choice.
Shady Grove Campground – Down the road from Blue Jay Knob, I really loved this peaceful area, too, and each of the 11 sites here offer full hookups. But the heavy tree cover would have prevented satellite TV and didn’t get as good reception for my cell phone and air card. I met two very nice couples camped here, though – one a fellow Texan!
This is a view from a bottom loop at Shady Grove where no RVs can fit. There are two islands visible from here, so don’t miss this nice little picnic spot.
Fox Squirrel Campground – This park is located closest to the entrance and visitor center, so if you want the easiest access, this is it. There are 26 full hookup sites here, but they are closer together and a bit more “sterile” than the above two campgrounds.
Flying Squirrel Campground is located off of this loop and is basically an overflow area for crowded times. There are 27 sites with 30 amp electric at the sites – water is available at a couple of communal places, but not individually. There are no tables or grills at the sites, either.
Scenes Around the Park:
Gooseneck Bend South – This is a nice tenting or picnic area I stopped at several times just to enjoy the sounds of the water.
Hickory Flats Picnic Pavilion – this is only one of these kind of facilities that can accommodate about 60 people. Reservations can be made by calling the office at 918-489-5643.
This is the view from inside the pavilion. They provide electricity and cooking grills with water hydrants in the immediate area.
Here’s another view from this area near the pavilion. This one was on my way home to my site at Blue Jay Knob, and I stopped several times just to enjoy the beauty.
Pine Cove Marina & Clearwater Cafe – I never made it over here, but isn’t it pretty?
I spent an entire morning visiting with Leann Bunn, the Naturalist who takes care of the natural life at the Driftwood Nature Center. She’s been with this park for 7 years and you can tell she has chosen the right profession. She was so eager to show me her charges – her knowledge and enthusiasm made my tour a lot of fun as well as taught me a bunch about the animals native to this area.
She obviously has a very special communication going with Solomon, the grey squirrel born this year and needing a little TLC before he gets on with his life in the wild. A friend of hers donated him to the center and he is such a sweet, friendly fellow!
It was amazing how gentle he was as he hopped from her to me and back again – sometimes giving little tickley nips as he “tasted” me – I just fell in love with Solomon!
Which of the animals in the above group are stuffed and which are real? And which animal doesn’t belong with the others? I actually got to touch the corn snake pictured upper right – and no, snakes are not slimy in the least! The Western Diamond Rattlesnake on the left was really active that morning, coiling and uncoiling, exercising her rattles and forked tongue. Of course, we weren’t gonna mess with her! Top middle is Silky the flying squirrel who really lives up to her name. Leann has cared for her since she was less than a month old – she’s full grown now at over 4 years old and her fur is truly silken – a real thrill to pet this nocturnal animal I’ve never seen before. Ms. Posey Possum woke from her nap to see if we were disturbing her for some good reason – like being fed. Hoo-Doo (a/k/a Girlfriend), the Barred Owl has been here for 5 years, since she was 2 weeks old. She likes getting her neck scratched by Leann, but don’t go near her claws! Being Australian, the Sugar Glider gal on the bottom left is technically not a native, but she is still welcome here. After all, she’s a marsupial, so that gives her a connection with Posey. Thankfully, the grey fox in the bad mood is the stuffy one – he’s part of the diorama (pic in the background) that is very well done and informative. And that’s not all – even more surprising and entertaining exhibits are found here, so check it out and give Leann a hug for me.
8 miles N of Gore on Hwy 100 — Vian, OK
Malia’s 2 cents: This campground was exactly what I needed at just the right time – relaxation, solitude when I wanted it and enjoyable company when I went in for visits to the Nature Center and Visitor’s Center. Once again the friendliness of the Oklahoma people were unmatched as everyone I met went out of their way to be helpful and made me very glad I “discovered” this wonderful part of this way underrated state! The same amenities I enjoyed about Greenleaf State Park are also present here and I can see how this would make a great group camping destination, also.
Tasty Tip: Big Daddy’s Restaurant Right on the Dam Highway is right across the street from the park entrance. Nice folks, good food and close to the campgrounds – great deal! Their local claim to fame is their catfish dinners (on the menu always, but on the buffet on Friday night). Saturday is steak night with ribeye and sirloin, and their BBQ is always popular. Open for breakfast, lunch & dinner, but call about the hours because it varies in summer/winter. Tell Joe I said hi!