|The End of Trail Motel in Broken Bow commemorates the terminus
of the removal trail for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes.
Oklahoma must be America's best kept secret. I don't know many people (besides me!) who choose Oklahoma as a vacation destination,
but I think that they're missing out. Considering that mountains, forests, streams, waterfalls, and dramatic western landscapes are only a
few hours' drive away from Dallas/Fort Worth, one of the biggest metropolises in the U.S., one would think Oklahoma would be a popular
But when I drove along the Quachita (Wash-I-tah) National Forest, which spans the southeastern part of the state, I encountered very few
tourists, and just a handful of locals. For the largest part of my journey, I savored the solitude and undisturbed vistas of the tallest
mountains east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians. I must admit I enjoyed having this landscape to myself, though I do believe
that tourism would bring a few extra dollars to the struggling hamlets at the bases of the mountains.
"Little Dixie" describes southeastern Oklahoma because the Choctaws who settled here in the early 1820s practiced Southern plantation
culture and after the Civil War, many southern whites settled here. The mountain ranges run north and south along old fault lines. Millions
of years ago, these mountains stood as tall as the Rockies, but erosion and tectonic inactivity has reduced them to hills that reach from
1,000 to 2,000 feet. The ranges, divided by broad valleys - the Kiamichi River being the widest valley - each have a different name, too. You
can drive around the Kiamichi, Winding Stair, Rich, San Bois, Blue, Limestone Ridge, and Jack Fork mountains.
|The Kiamichi River dominates the valley floor and separates the mountain ranges. In the
spring, these waters turn into shallow but swift rapids.
|An abandoned store along US 271 in Snow, which borders the Kiamichi Mountains. The sign
on it hints that this was also a Masonic meeting place. Above the sign the year 1926 is
spelled out in bottles!
|The Horsehead Springs along the Winding Stair
Mountain Scenic Byway (OK 1). These springs
nourished not only horses, but notorious
outlaws as well, as the remote and uncontrolled
area made a perfect bandit getaway. Belle Starr,
Jesse James, Cole Younger, and the Dalton
Gang hid out in these mountains.
The stone work surrounding the springs was
built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Things to See and Do in Little Dixie!
Winding Stair Scenic Byway
OK 1 winds its way up mountains and down
valleys, and offers scenic overlooks. You can
reach the road via US 271 (road entrance is
northeast of Talihina) or via US 259.
Beavers Bend State Resort Park
Beavers Bend is one of Oklahoma's favorite
parks, offering overnight cabins, fishing,
swimming, boating, and hiking. The park has a
wonderful nature center, too, and is located
north of Broken Bow on US 259.
Heavener Runestone State Park
This is a cool park that centers on a large
sandstone, upon which supposedly Viking
runes have been carved. Historians still
debate whether the runes are authentic, but
the stone makes a good conversation piece!
Along US 270 north of Heavener.
Robbers Cave State Park
My husband and I took a belated honeymoon
here (we were very broke). The park has
beautiful scenery within the San Bois
mountains, and the "cave" (two large stone
slabs forming a cubby) was supposedly the
hideout of many a bandit. Lots of graffiti marks
the spot where Jesse James came to escape
the demands of banditry. On OK 2, north of
Tuskahoma was the first capital of the
Choctaw Nation, which was later moved to
Durant. Now the old capital building is a well
preserved monument to Choctaw ingenuity.
On US 271 northeast of Clayton, follow signs.
|This picturesque Christian Church was
built using locally quarried stone.
|The Mountains of Little Dixie