The Main Street of America is a 2,448-mile long road going from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California; you probably know it as Route 66. This road goes straight through Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live and has been elected to be the capital of Route 66. Here in Tulsa, you will find many of the historical landmarks such as the Blue Whale Swimming Hole, Vickery Phillips 66 Station, and the Circle Theater. You will also find a few new places sharing the history of this road.
Mapping on the Wall.
Tulsa has so many landmarks and activities for Route 66, we decided to do a little bit at a time and really get to know and enjoy the venue. On this day, we visited the Route 66 Historical Village located in West Tulsa along the old Route 66 highway. Built in 2010, it shows off the different modes of transportation during the heyday of this amazing road. Here you will find the Meteor 4500 steam engine that was once located at Mohawk Park from 1954-1991, the business lounge car that traveled between Tulsa and Sapulpa, an oil tanker and the caboose. You will also find a display of an antique pump-jack that was used to get crude oil from a well just under the tallest oil derrick in North America.
The actual engine that traveled between St. Louis and Oklahoma, passing through Tulsa.
We decided to visit the open air museum in West Tulsa, the Route 66 Historical Village. This was opened in 2010 and has so many wonderful bits of history. Here you will find the Frisco 4500 engine that traveled through Tulsa between St. Louis and Oklahoma City from 1942 until 1947. In 1954 the Engine was moved to the Mohawk Park and Tulsa Zoo where it stayed until 1991 when it was moved to another location to be renovated and finally found it’s home in 2009 at this location. Not only was the engine placed here, but there is a business lounge car, oil tanker, and caboose (former boxcar). All of these were operated in Oklahoma.
The Meteor 4500 next to the tallest oil rig in North America.
Here you can see the early 1900’s style pump.
Tulsa Skyline seen in the near distance.
Tulsa is known as the Oil Capital of the World and it is here at the location of the Route 66 Historical Village where oil was supposed to have been first oil strike on June 25, 1901. The derrick and pump are not the original, but they are built exactly as they were. The derrick is the tallest in North America is 194 feet tall and can be seen from the highway below with the Tulsa skyline in the background.
The visitor center and restrooms in the style of the old Phillip 66 gas stations.
Because the new highways have bypassed the towns where old Route 66 passed through, many of the old gas stations are falling apart or have completely disappeared, the museum creators decided to build their visitor center and bathrooms in the style these buildings were built in. They had a buy-a-brick fundraiser to help with the cost of the buildings and upkeep of the museum which was used to pave in front of the building. Here you will find plenty of information about Route 66.
Scott and I taking a selfie in front of a Route 66 memorial area.
We had a wonderful day visiting the Mother Road through Tulsa. It was a way to view history that was not boring or outdated. I can’t wait to see what else Tulsa will do with the Route 66 Vision 2025. With Tulsa being elected the Route 66 Capitol, I am sure there will be some amazing things created.
Thank you so much for traveling with us.
Scott & Ren
When the Chickasaw Nation was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, within their new borders they found a wooded area filled with fresh water and strong-smelling mineral water springs. They believed these springs had healing powers. Fearing that they would not be able to protect this area from commercial development and becoming another Hot Springs, Arkansas, they sold it to the Federal Government, with the condition that it be protected, and kept open to the public. In 1902 Senator Orville Platt introduced legislation designating this area the Sulphur Springs Reservation, and in 1906 Congress passed legislation creating Platt National Park, named for Senator Platt, who had recently died.
CCC built structure around Buffalo Springs.
At 640 acres, Platt National Park was the seventh and the smallest unit in the National Park System. Though small it was no less popular, in 1914 it received more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to make improvements, to make the area deserving of being a National Park. They added many buildings, and landscape features, that significantly altered the character of the park. By 1949 it was receiving more than a million visitors a year. However, many people within Congress felt that Platt National Park lacked the grandeur and scope expected of a National Park. On March 17, 1976, Congress changed the status from Platt National Park to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because it was not the same natural beauty as Yellowstone and Yosemite. This former national park was added to the Arbuckle Recreation Area to create a lush playground for all to enjoy.
Lake of the Arbuckle’s on a foggy fall morning.
The older portion of the park, the Platt District, remains popular, still receiving more than a million visitors a year. It features the springs, a swimming hole, fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. The swimming hole has a small man-made waterfall called the Little Niagara. Here the spring water is cold and a host to people of all cultures.
The lower falls at Little Niagara.
There are three basic camping areas. The Lake of the Arbuckles areas: Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and The Point. One, Guy Sandy, is first come-first serve and does not require a reservation. You simply show up, decide on your spot and visit the kiosk, then pay for your stay. Buckhorn and The Point are reservation camping loop is very nice with full hook-ups and full almost all year round. The third camping area is within the historic Platt District, the original area of the park has three camping loops, in which the only one is open year round and only first come-first serve. This area is surrounded by the rushing creek and active in the springtime.
Ren and I first visited in Fall of 2013, we were on the way back from visiting family in Oklahoma. This was before we really caught the travel bug, but we fell in love with the park and made plans to return. We have revisited the park several times since then, it is a reasonable drive from both Fort Worth and from Tulsa. When I started photography it was one for the first places I wanted to go.
We decided one day to visit the visitor center and hike trails behind it. Here the shade from the canopy of trees kept us cool in the Oklahoma August heat. It was quiet for the most part, except the various little waterfalls and birds chattering in the treetops. Here we found a peaceful place just minutes away from the main county road. It was an amazing hike.
Hiking along one of the many trails at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
We then took the time to swim in the swimming hole just below the Little Niagara Falls. We even followed many of the young people and jumped off the top! It was exhilarating. I remember my heart pumping and watching the people ahead of us pop up from down below. My knee was aching, it was only recently healed from being broken and the cold, spring water felt good, taking away the swelling.
It may not be a National Park anymore, but it is still worth a visit if you are in the area.
Thanks so much for visiting this park with us!
State Park Series
We are driving along an Oklahoma road through Hinton and we could see a few mesas in the distance, flat prairies, and evidence of the 1920’s Dust Bowl era all around us. However, if it were not for the Red Rock Canyon State Park sign, we would never have known it was there. This canyon is hidden about a quarter of a mile from the main road and the road into the canyon drops down 150 feet in switchback style.
Balancing Rock standing away from the canyon wall.
Here we were greeted by large slabs of a dark brownish red slab of sandstone from the Permian Age. The sandstone walls are part of what geologists call the Rush Springs Sandstone Formation and these colors are caused by the oxidized iron minerals in the individual sand grains naturally cemented together making up the old sandstone. Because of the dark red color of this layer of rocks, it is said that this area is the heart of Oklahoma.
Scott taking photos in the golden hour of the morning
Once, in the canyon, we found these amazing 40-60 feet high walls of red sandstone. Because we arrived at sunrise, a planned two and a half hour drive, the light was perfect and enabled us to take photos showing off the beauty of this canyon. Here, high canyon walls towered over the flat two and a half mile canyon road. From my research, I learned the ground is completely from the eroded Permian Age sandstone.
A road in the canyon has many trees and wild grasses growing along side it.
The canyon floor area is completely different from the prairie 150 feet above. We were not expecting to see the brilliant green colors throughout the park; this trip was in July, one of the hottest months of the year for Oklahoma. Normally it is extremely hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s and everything dry enough to warrant fire danger warnings; however, in this park, you found nothing of the sort. It was pretty amazing to see this oasis below the prairie.
One of the interesting features we found on these cliffs were some vertical lines etched into the stone. We were unsure what these lines were and wondered briefly if they were graffiti. However, it was not graffiti, but decades of use by Rock Climbing and Repelling Clubs throughout Oklahoma. The rock climbing is only allowed in this one specific area to keep the damage in one spot.
One of the things we do as we visit a state park is to drive the full length of the park. This means we drive through each camping loop to see what there are for tent and RV campers, take a peek at the facilities to see what’s available, and find the trailheads to do a short hike or two. This park has three hiking trails: The nature trail which takes you past the pond and in towards the front of the canyon. This pond was used as a water source for the Cheyenne Indians as they wintered in this canyon.
Simply called “The Pond.”
The California Road Natural Trail which is where you will find the ruts left from the wagon wheels of those traveling to California back in the early 1800’s. This was the path the California bound pioneers used this path to get their wagons down to the canyon for protection from the elements and find water, much as the Cheyenne people had done.
The trailhead for the California Road Natural Trail.
Unfortunately, Scott was having issues with his foot and he was not able to explore the trail I found hiding behind a large grove of Caddo Maples. I did not go far, but I just had to see where this these stairs led. They started out with steps made from railroad ties and then turned into a natural set of stairs around a tree’s roots. Suddenly there was a large slab of sandstone with an indention from thousands of feet climbing up the trail to look down into the canyon.
Stairs to adventure.
This park is a place that we will be visiting again. It has good electrical and sewer hookups, plenty of places to explore, and a swimming pool to cool off in on those hot summer days. Our time here was almost magical, in away. Between the spring feed stream, lush canyon floor, and the red rock wall, we felt it was another world. However, it was time for us to move on to our next destination, another state park so we could share that one with you too.
Wish you were here.
Safe travels friends,