Published May/Jun 2005

Above: Fly fishers enjoy the Lower Mountain Fork River, one of the finest brown trout fisheries on the southern plains. The area also offers great wildlife viewing.

Below: Windows and decks bring nature closer to guests at area inns.

Before You Go
For more information, contact the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce, 1-800-52-TREES (800-528-7337) or www.brokenbowchamber.com.

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For nature lovers, broken bow in Southeast Oklahoma
is a perfect catch.
Story and photos By John Gifford

If you ever come to the town of Broken Bow, Okla., don’t forget to bring along your hiking boots, binoculars, a fishing rod and sunscreen. Those who enjoy being outdoors will need all of them here.

Tucked away in the southeast corner of Oklahoma amid the area’s verdant hills, Broken Bow beckons to those who enjoy fishing, birding, hiking, boating, scuba diving, camping, or simply relaxing in nature. Visit here once and it’ll beckon to you, too, because I guarantee you’ll return.

Receiving more than 50 inches of rain each year, Broken Bow is greener and warmer than other areas within the Sooner State. Not surprisingly, the area’s lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and full of clean, clear water. And if you enjoy fishing, then you know what all this water means.

Fishing, anyone?

When it comes to beauty, Broken Bow Lake is in a class by itself. Easily the state’s most scenic reservoir, its gravel shorelines and rocky islands place it among our nation’s most beautiful. But at Broken Bow, beauty is more than skin deep.

In March 1999, the lake produced the current state record largemouth bass (14 pounds, 11 ounces), and it remains the state’s premier fishery for this species. It also boasts outstanding opportunities for spotted and smallmouth bass, as well as walleye.

If this isn’t enough, then consider the Lower Mountain Fork River. One of only two year-round Oklahoma trout fisheries, the Lower Mountain Fork is gaining a reputation as one of the finest brown trout fisheries on the southern plains. The state record brown weighed more than nine pounds, and the river also is home to some hefty rainbows.

For fishing in wild, remote settings, try the Glover River, Oklahoma’s last free-flowing river and home to a genetically pure population of Ouachita-strain smallmouth bass. These fish have evolved over the years to be able to tolerate the area’s harsh summers and, consequently, are different than any other smallmouth subspecies in the world.

Throw in the Upper Mountain Fork, Little and Eagle Fork rivers, and anglers can fish a different body of water each day of the week. And given their scenic attributes, they’re all blue-ribbon fisheries.

Wildlife viewing

Red Slough Wildlife Management Area–operated jointly by the Ouachita National Forest, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation–is a 5,800-acre bird haven. Consisting of forest, reservoirs and swamp areas, Red Slough attracts a variety of bird species, including the Roseate Spoonbill, Tundra Swans, King Rail and a variety of waterfowl.

Many other wildlife species may be observed here, including white-tailed deer, river otters, mink and black bear. Visit in mid- to late summer and you’ll have a good chance of spotting one of the alligators that call Red Slough home.

Here’s a trip tip: Bring along a pair of binoculars, comfortable waterproof shoes, as well as sunscreen and insect repellant.

Camping and lodging

Camping opportunities abound in Broken Bow, with neighboring Beavers Bend Resort Park ranking as one of the state’s most desirable campgrounds. The state park offers 47 cabins (accommodating from two to six guests each), 110 RV sites (equipped with water and electric), 56 tent sites, as well as two group picnic shelters. Reservations are recommended, as these sites, and particularly the cabins, are often booked up to a year in advance.

Lakeview Lodge in the park, which overlooks Broken Bow Lake and offers 36 rooms and four suites, is quite popular, especially with golfers. Cedar Creek Golf Course is located here. There’s also a bed-and-breakfast inn in the area.

For the youngsters

Just because the Broken Bow area is so attractive to adults doesn’t mean that children won’t enjoy visiting here. Aside from fishing, camping and hiking, consider visiting Beavers Bend Depot, located inside Beavers Bend Resort Park. Here, you can take a ride through the woods on a scaled-down replica of the circa 1863 C. P. Huntington steam train. The depot also offers trail (horse) and hay rides, which afford passengers opportunities to spot native wildlife, such as deer, fox, squirrels and coyotes. Afterwards, stop in at the depot’s snack bar for some cotton candy or ice cream.

Photographic keepsakes

The old policy of taking nothing but photos and leaving nothing but footprints is becoming increasingly important as more and more of us visit our favorite vacation destinations and outdoor playgrounds. Broken Bow is no exception.

Fortunately, Broken Bow is a very photogenic destination, offering shutterbugs myriad opportunities for both scenery and wildlife compositions. One of these opportunities is Beavers Bend Resort Park. Park the car, get out and walk the trails and roadsides to get intimate perspectives of the park’s streams and wildlife.

For a special treat, visit Zone III of the Lower Mountain Fork River. This area, with its flooded cypress trees, more closely resembles a swamp than a river. Some of the most spectacular nature photography I’ve ever seen has come from this zone on the river, much of it captured during early mornings, with fog lingering over the water.

When to visit?

Located far from any major cities, Broken Bow is highly popular with tourists and nature lovers. Summertime finds Broken Bow Lake and Beavers Bend Resort Park swelling with crowds. Fall and winter, on the other hand, offer much more peace and solitude. Regardless of when you plan to visit, it’s wise to call ahead and make lodging or camping reservations.

John Gifford is a new contributor from Oklahoma City, Okla.

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