April 02, 2018
Looking for an outdoor vacation getaway that the whole family can enjoy? Then you surely will want to hit some of these locations this summer.
Where are you going for summer vacation this year? Padre Island is nice. The Rockies are fun and fairly close, but why go out of state when beauty and excitement abound right here in the Sooner State?
If you want a fishing vacation that offers plenty of entertainment away from the water, Oklahoma fills the bill. It's inexpensive, and you can spend less time driving and more time fishing, swimming, hiking, dining and relaxing.
Isn't that what a vacation should be? Pull up a chair and see what you think of these ideas for a "staycation" getaway.
The capital city is an overlooked staycation destination, but it has much to offer residents and non-residents.
You might be surprised that central Oklahoma also supports an excellent diversity of freshwater fishing opportunities. You can fish near Bricktown for sand bass and other species in the Oklahoma River, which is an impounded section of the North Canadian River.
Or, you can cruise up to The Village, in the northwest part of the city, to Lake Hefner, a municipal water supply reservoir. There you can enjoy excellent fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, crappie and white bass/striped bass hybrids.
Essentially a shallow square, Lake Hefner is easy to fish. You'll catch most of your bass around the rock structure in the marina area. Walleyes are very fond of the riprap banks on the opposite shore near the restaurants. Hybrids can appear anywhere anytime, but you can consistently find them cruising the deep water near the dam.
You can also catch hybrids, black bass and panfish at Lake Overholser. Lake Stanley Draper is OKC's least productive fishery, but it's there if you need it.
You'll need a fishing and boating permit to fish any of the Oklahoma City waters, including the Oklahoma River. For information, call 405-297-1426.
Watch The Video Gallery Above To Help you Improve Your Family Fishing Fun!
We're not finished in central Oklahoma just yet. In addition to the city waters, there are some excellent lakes in neighboring communities like Norman, Guthrie and Edmond.
Near Norman is Lake Thunderbird, one of our state's great saugeye and crappie fisheries. It also has some decent bass and bream fishing.
To the north is Edmond and Arcadia Lake, a great but overlooked hotspot to fish for largemouth bass, crappie, striped bass, white bass and hybrids.
Guthrie is about 19 miles north of Edmond. It is famous for the Victorian architecture of its well-preserved and vibrant downtown area. It also has some excellent bass fishing, crappie fishing and bream fishing at 275-acre Lake Guthrie.
Along the Way: OKC has lodging to fit any budget and any level of luxury. We've got restaurants to satisfy any appetite, from down home southern cooking to all manner of ethnic cuisine. We strongly recommend a little side trip to El Reno to sample an onion burger at any number of local eateries.
Young people especially are delighted with the diversity of outdoors and adventure entertainment options in "The City." Climb Up OKC has converted a retired grain elevator into a topnotch rock climbing facility right across the Oklahoma River from Bricktown. There's also an excellent mountain bike trail network around Lake Stanley Draper.
If you want more traditional entertainment, OKC has several water parks, a world-class zoo and some excellent museums, including the incomparable National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Science Museum Oklahoma.
As home of the University of Oklahoma, Norman has a dynamic nightclub community offering plenty of live music for listening and dancing, as well as an excellent selection of restaurants. OU and Norman also have an impressive selection of museums and theaters.
All of these bedroom community waters are a convenient distance from OKC, which means you can return to town in plenty of time to see a movie, relax in Bricktown or any of OKC's other diversions.
Though only a couple of hours apart, Tulsa and Oklahoma City are diametrically different experiences, but Tulsa is an outstanding staycation destination in its own right.
For anglers, the Tulsa area also has a diversity of high-quality fishing opportunities in and near the city.
One of these is Keystone Lake, which offers fair fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. It's a good lake for catfish and crappie, but it is best for sand bass and striped bass. Fishing for all of these species is best from late April through mid-June.
Stripers reproduce naturally throughout the Arkansas River, and they are active whenever Keystone Dam pulls current, especially in the Keystone Lake tailwater.
To the northwest is Skiatook Lake. It is a very good lake for smallmouth bass fishing, and it offers superb fishing for Kentucky bass and also for white bass/striped bass hybrids and crappie. In places, the largemouth bass fishing is very good, too.
Camping is available at Tall Chief Cove and Twin Points. Fancier lodging is available at Cross Timbers Lodge, which also has a marina.
To the northeast is Lake Oologah, one of the best bass lakes in the state, or you can go a little farther to Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, which is one of the best bass lakes in America. It's not too far. The 2013 and 2016 Bassmaster Classic bass fishing events were held at Grand Lake, but the tournament weigh-in ceremonies were in downtown Tulsa.
Along the Way: Like any big city, Tulsa has a vast array of dining and lodging opportunities for every palate and every budget. Tulsa has contributed profoundly to American popular music, and that tradition thrives in a vibrant live music scene that covers every imaginable genre.
Tulsa also has a first-class zoo. Youngsters will enjoy Safari Joe's H2O Water Park and the Sky Zone Trampoline Park.
Camping on Keystone Lake is available at Walnut Creek State Park. It has 140 campsites, including eight modern RV sites with water, electric and sewer hookups, and 71 RV sites with just water and electric. Tent sites are also available.
The park has four boat ramps, of which three are lighted. It also has swim beaches, play areas for the kids and nature trails, including the 17-mile Sand Plum Trail.
For information, go to keystoneok.com/walnut/
The area around BOK Arena has a lot of neat clubs and restaurants to give you a small taste of Midwestern urban festivities.
Check out the Tulsa Aquarium while you're there, or tour the World War II submarine USS Batfish at the Muskogee War Memorial Park and Museum.
Arid and sparsely populated, this part of the state is largely overlooked by tourists, but places like the Quartz Mountains inspire the imagination, and they are well worth visiting.
Lake Altus-Lugert is nearby for fishing. It's an irrigation reservoir that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stocks with a variety of fish, including walleyes and hybrids. It also supports fair numbers of crappie. Water levels fluctuate wildly, and Altus-Lugert has gone nearly dry some years, but when it is full, it is very popular among anglers.
Straddling Stephens and Cotton counties is 10,000-acre Waurika Lake. Its sport fishery was decimated during a severe drought from 2011-13, but that same drought allowed the lake to sprout new vegetation that became fish habitat when the lake refilled. It is recovering nicely and is a great place to fish for bass, crappie, walleyes, hybrids and panfish.
Along the Way: Quartz Mountain Nature Park is a neat place for a family staycation. It offers a variety of outdoors-based recreation opportunities, including a dedicated all-terrain vehicle area. The park also has a campground that operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not accepted.
My family has stayed at the Cottonwood Campground, and we loved it. Remote and desolate, it's an awesome place to stargaze.
Camping is available at six recreation areas around the lake. Food and other services are available nearby in Waurika and other communities.
Although Lake Texoma is southern Oklahoma's premier fishing destination, other places make for excellent staycation getaways, too.
Lakes Murray and Jean Neustadt, near Ardmore, are two dandy destinations that combine beautiful scenery with outstanding fishing.
Lake Murray, a 5,700-acre impoundment of Anadarche and Fourche Maline creeks, supports excellent populations of largemouth bass, walleyes, crappie and catfish. It has excellent smallmouth bass fishing, too.
If you catch a big fish, pose for a picture with Tucker Tower in the background. It's the area's most recognizable landmark.
Lake Murray is known for its schooling bass in early summer, which means you can catch them on topwaters. All you need is a little wind, and that's never in short supply in southern Oklahoma. In the evening, when the wind lays, a subtle topwater presentation is a good way to catch trophy smallmouths.
Look for walleyes on rocky flats at sunset and sunrise. You can catch them on crankbaits and grubs with regular tackle, but you'll have a better chance if you harness live worms on bottom-bouncer rigs. I've had success catching them in midmorning hours on cloudy, windy days with crankbaits on shallow, windblown points.
Along the Way: Ardmore has motels and restaurants nearby, or you can camp at Lake Murray State Park. Rock Tower Campground is comfortable, clean and family friendly. You can also rent a cabin, or better yet, a floating cabin.
The park also has a designated area for all-terrain vehicles and off-road vehicles. It has 1,000 acres of mostly unrestricted riding on hard-packed dirt. You can also rent a variety of personal watercraft. The park also has a golf course for those who enjoy smacking a little white ball around.
For more information, contact Lake Murray State Park & Lodge at 580-223-4044.
You can enjoy all kinds of excellent fishing in scenic Southeastern Oklahoma, and Broken Bow Lake is the ideal headquarters for a staycation in that part of the state.
You can fish for largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass, as well as walleyes and crappie in Broken Bow Lake.
You can fish for brown trout, rainbow trout and walleyes in the lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow Lake, or you can float-fish for smallmouth bass on the Glover River and the upper Mountain Fork.
Along the Way: Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park is very family friendly, with a range of amenities. You can stay at the lodge with its great restaurant, or you can camp on the lakefront, or along the tailwater.
You can rent all manner of boats, including canoes, kayaks, personal watercraft, pontoons and houseboats.
Activities include cycling, horseback riding and children's programs. The park has a golf course, and you can also rent horses.
For more information, contact Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park at 580-494-6300.
ADDED BONUS: EXPERIENCE HISTORY
Because of its frontier heritage, Oklahoma is a wonderland for history buffs. In Oklahoma City, visit the Capitol building to see memorabilia from the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was sunk in 1941 during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship's silver service set, a gift from the people of Oklahoma, is on display there along with other items.
Old West enthusiasts should visit the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site near Cheyenne. That's where, in 1868, Gen. George Armstrong Custer led the U.S. 7th Cavalry in a surprise dawn attack on a Cheyenne Village that served as Chief Black Kettle's headquarters. It was the last major engagement in that area between indigenous tribes and the U.S. Army.
The battlefield looks very much as it did at that time, and a museum offers a complete perspective on the battle, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath.
Some say it sowed the seeds of ill will between Custer and Capt. Frederick Benteen, who failed to reinforce Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Custer was killed.