Many people think of the Great Plains and gentle rolling hills when they think of Oklahoma. It was previously the site of Native Americans, US soldiers, and cowboys.
Oklahoma has a number of National Park Service Sites dedicated to the sad history of these Native Americans. The park service also operates a large National Recreation Area dedicated to preserving tribal lands and wildlife in the area.
There are no National Parks in Oklahoma. But there are four sites affiliated by the National Park Service and two National Trails in the state.
Oklahoma National Park Affiliated Sites
- Chickasaw National Recreation Area
- Fort Smith National Historic Site
- Oklahoma City National Memorial
- Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Chickasaw National Recreation Area gets its name from the Chickasaw Nation, the Native American tribe that sold the land for the park to the federal government in 1902 as part of a conservation effort.
Over the years, the area eventually expanded to also contain Arbuckle National Recreation Area and surrounding areas, and now spans an expansive 9,888 acres.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area is abundant in wildlife, and the park offers a wide range of activities year-round, from fishing or swimming in the 2,350-acre Lake of the Arbuckles to hiking through its many trails.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith was established in 1817, and while the first fort built in the location is no longer standing, its second fort still remains. Fort Smith’s history is a tumultuous one: not only was it the site of dozens of executions between 1873 and 1896, but it was also a stop along the Trail of Tears.
Guests at Fort Smith National Historic Site can visit the Trail of Tears National Historic Overlook, created to honor those who were forcibly removed from their lands, or can stop by the Museum of History or the Art Center.
Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors those whose lives were forever changed in the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
The memorial was created where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood before its destruction and serves as a symbol of commemoration and remembrance. Visitors enter and exit the memorial through the Gates of Time—marked 9:01 and 9:03, respectively, to memorialize the moments before and after the bombing occurred.
You can also walk past the Field of Empty Chairs, where 168 glass and bronze chairs are engraved with the names of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site serves as a memorial to the Cheyenne who were killed or captured in the Battle of Washita on November 27th, 1868.
On that day, Lt. Col. George Custer led the 7th US Cavalry through a Cheyenne village, where Custer then attacked and killed an unknown number of Cheyenne, including women and children.
At the time, Chief Black Kettle, the village leader, had been engaged in peace talks. Guests at the historic site can check out the visitor center, which features a museum and documentary film-viewing, or can walk along the Washita Battlefield Park Trail.
National Trails In Oklahoma
- Santa Fe National Historic Trail
- Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail spans across five states, from Missouri to New Mexico. In the 19th century, it served as a commercial route across states, and following the Mexican-American war it became integral to the United States’ expansion into the West.
Those interested in learning more about the trail’s route through Oklahoma can visit the Cimarron Heritage Center in Cimarron, Oklahoma, or can arrange a visit to Autograph Rock, where more than 200 travelers on the Santa Fe Trail signed their name.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Between 1830 and 1850, 46,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their lands and relocated west of the Mississippi River. Thousands of Native Americans died along the way, and thousands more suffered from starvation and disease.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail commemorates their suffering. While the Trail of Tears spans across 9 states, it ends in Oklahoma, where many Native Americans were forced to resettle.
Those desiring to learn more about the trail can visit the Trail of Tears Association National Office in Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, or the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill.