The taste of local honey is truly unique and special.
Flavor profiles reflect the landscape and plant life of the area where the bees forage. One region is distinct from another.
It doesn’t get more local than that.
And at Roark Acres, which produces honey in the Tulsa area, honey products are created by many members of a local family. It’s their art and homage to the bees that they raise.
Roark Acres Honey Farms is a family-owned business and a member of the Made in Oklahoma Coalition.
No doubt about it, it’s a fulfilling job — and they know it, co-owner Amy Roark said.
“My husband, Michael, always says, ‘Now, it does not feel like going to work. I used to wear polos and khakis, and now I wear jeans and cowboy boots,’” Amy Roark said.
Michael Roark got his first two hives in 2012 — it was supposed to be a hobby, but little did the Roarks know then, their new family business was in the making.
“We just sort of fell into it and ended up just loving the bees,” she said.
Roark Acres honey is prized among local cooks and chefs.
Michael worked with a local commercial beekeeper full time for almost a year. He learned everything he possibly could about honey bees and, in less than eight years, turned two honey bee hives into over 1,000.
They began developing products including pure, raw Oklahoma honey, flavored creamed honey, various infused honeys, bee pollen, beeswax, beeswax candles, honey candy, handcrafted soap, lip balm, lotion bars and many skin care products. In the spring, they even sell bees.
In March 2016, they opened a small storefront in Jenks, offering a down-home, country, vintage experience for guests.
Then, in 2019, Reasor’s grocery stores began selling Roark Acres honey products in all of their stores across northeastern Oklahoma.
The Roark family started with two hives and grew to have more than 1,000 in about eight years.
Michael’s brother Scott is in charge of delivery, and daughter Courtney is in charge of bottling the product. Chloe, the oldest daughter, managed the Tulsa Farmer’s Market honey sales every Saturday until she went off to college in 2021.
“Since we started selling honey to the public, we have been able to purchase acreage out in the Sapulpa/Mounds area (where we bottle now) and open a bigger storefront — still in Jenks — to grow into more of an old-school general store,” Amy Roark said.
While Michael leads the production crew and plans growth for the business, Amy, the “Queen Bee,” runs the store, coordinates more sales avenues and makes the health and beauty products.
Her cousin, Amanda, sells the Roark Acres Honey at several markets in Bartlesville and does local trade shows or festivals in that area.
The family has certainly become experts in the bee business.
Amy Roark explained that honey will taste different depending on the location where the bees are foraging. Honey from bees in the Tulsa area and northeastern Oklahoma will taste similar to the honey in western Arkansas because of similar plant life.
“For the spring harvest, the hives are out from the end of April to the first part of July,” Amy Roark said. “The fall harvest is end of September, first part of October. That honey is very different, almost black, much thicker texture, not as sweet and it tastes like butter pecan.”
And in Oklahoma, it is actually harder to produce local honey than other places, Roark said, so yields are smaller here than other places.
“We just do not have the amount of forage for the bees to take care of. A lot of the land is used for alfalfa, corn... things that bees do not forage off of as much. People like manicured lawns, they mow down the clover, which the bees like.”
Oklahoma’s 14 most beautiful places to visit
1. Beavers Bend State Park: The feel of Colorado without the drive
An island is a serene setting on Broken Bow Lake in Beavers Bend State Park. Photo by Tom Gilbert, Tulsa World Magazine
A short three-hour car ride from Tulsa will get you to Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow, where the trees are tall and the air is clear.
It is like traveling to Colorado but here in McCurtain County, Oklahoma.
Bring your backpack and hiking boots and visit the state park’s hiking trails. It really gets you back to nature, hiking the various trails in the park. Horseback riding is also available.
Don’t forget about the lake. Broken Bow Lake was built under the supervision of the Tulsa District of the Corps of Engineers. The lake covers 14,000 acres and has a shoreline of 180 miles. Boats and houseboats are available for rent, and one can camp in a cabin, RV or tent. If you get a chance to visit the dam’s spillway while it is not spilling, it is a nice spot to relax.
There is also a zipline at Broken Bow Lake, which fills up fast, so make sure you make reservations.
The nearby Hochatown community is full of things for kids and adults to do. You can rent a cabin, go hiking, visit a brewery, a winery and even a distillery in this unincorporated town.
Don't miss: • A well-known and popular spot is Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room, 10251 U.S. 259. It offers a variety of pizzas and has a great beer selection. • If pizza isn’t your thing, then 100 yards away is The Blue Rooster, which serves lots of fried things, including fried green tomatoes. The Mountain Fork Brewery also offers up some delicious pizzas. • Mark McDaniel and Chuck Wilson opened Mountain Fork Brewery, 89 Lukfata Trail, Broken Bow in the Hochatown area in 2015. The shopping center also includes The Noodle Shop, Okie Girls Coffee & Ice Cream, Knotted Rope Winery and Hochatown Distilling Co. — By Tom Gilbert, Tulsa World Magazine
2. Keystone Ancient Forest: Not one to be missed
A view from the trail at the Keystone Ancient Forest in Sand Springs. Photo by Tom Gilbert, Tulsa World Magazine
Owned by the city of Sand Springs and protected through a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy, the Keystone Ancient Forest is considered a world-class hiking destination.
And a new acquisition this spring is redefining the concept of “hiking.”
Two new Action Trackchairs — imagine an electric wheelchair with tracks like a tank — will allow virtually anyone of any ability to trek across the nearly 1,400-acre nature preserve west of Sand Springs
, home to 500-year-old cedar trees and 300-year-old post oak trees.
The forest’s rugged terrain will be no match for the Trackchairs, which Parks Department Director Jeff Edwards says are “something unlike any other trails system in Oklahoma has.”
The Keystone Ancient Forest is part of a vast cross-timbers woodland that stretches from Kansas, across Oklahoma and into Texas, formed by a mosaic of rugged oaks and occasional prairies that forge a point at which the deciduous forests of the east transition to the Western Plains.
Deer, mountain lion, bobcats, eagles, migratory birds and more than 80 species of butterflies are among the forest’s inhabitants.
Recent upgrades to the preserve include its new $1 million visitor center, a freshly unveiled hiking trail to add to its collection and two recent expansions of its public hiking hours.
The preserve has five trails of varying lengths and difficulty, totaling more than 12 miles of hiking adventures that offer great views of Keystone Lake.
• Sand Springs is a long way from Italy, but the town's
Little Venice restaurant, at 208 N. Main St. on "The Triangle," has patrons and critics raving.
• It's less than three weeks until tens of thousands of gardening enthusiasts (and plain ol' festival fans) will head downtown for Sand Springs'
33rd annual Herbal Affair, featuring more than 100 vendors selling herbs, perennials, natives and heirloom plants, as well as gardening supplies, décor, arts and crafts, and food. Herbal Affair runs 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 16.
Case Community Park, 1050 W. Wekiwa Road in Sand Springs, offers something for everyone, from basketball and workout facilities in the community center to sports fields of every variety, as well as a 7,000-square-foot custom concrete skate park, one of the only BMX tracks in the metro area, and a splash pad.
— By Sharon Bishop-Baldwin, Tulsa World Magazine
3. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: Explore ancient peaks
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge features anything from easy hikes to rugged treks through some of the oldest peaks in the country. Photo courtesy of Lori Duckworth, Oklahoma Tourism
A straight shot down Interstate 44 and not far from Lawton is one of the few mountainous areas in the state, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and rock climbing are among the favorite activities at this federally protected wildlife refuge.
Several easier hiking trails will take you through scenic portions of some of the country’s oldest mountains. In some places, you can see remnants of old mining claims, hidden caves and curious woodland called the “parallel forest,” where cedars were planted years ago in straight lines.
If you’re looking for a bigger hiking challenge, trying hiking the Charon’s Garden Trail, which will have you going up and down steeper inclines, crawling through boulders and, in the spring, takes you past a seasonal waterfall.For the more adventurous, reserve a backcountry camping permit (tent only, and no fires allowed) and explore the wildest portion of the Wichitas. If you’re looking for a more comfortable camping option, reserve a space at the Doris Campground, which offers tent and RV sites.
Rock climbers can find anything from easy scrambles to expert-only routes in numerous spots in the range, including crags on Mount Scott, Elk Mountain and Crab Eyes.
As far as wildlife goes, keep an eye out for elk, deer, eagles, coyotes and bison, among other species that call this mountain range home.
The refuge is about 3½ hours southwest of Tulsa.
• Grab a burger at the
, just north of the refuge on Oklahoma 115. Huge burgers, pie and more will satiate appetites gained from a day of exploring. Meers Store and Restaurant
• Head to
Medicine Park. Hang out at Lake Lawtonka, grab a bite to eat or check out some of this town’s stores and galleries. If you want to make more than a day of it, you can camp at the lake or stay at one of Medicine Park’s many rental cabins, most of which have a view of Mount Scott.
• Stay at
lodge. The park is on the western edge of the Wichitas and sits next to Lake Altus-Lugert near Lone Wolf. You can get a room at the lodge or rent one of the park's cabins while enjoying scenery of the Wichitas from another vantage. Quartz Mountain State Park
— By Bob Doucette, Tulsa World Magazine
4. Natural Falls State Park: Get a taste of the Ozarks
Natural Falls State Park features a 77-foot waterfall. Visitors can take in the sights from an observation platform. Tulsa World Magazine file
Tucked away in the foothills of the Ozarks,
Natural Falls State Park often ranks as one of the most scenic spots in Oklahoma.
The park’s namesake is a slender, 77-foot waterfall that cascades down a cliff face and into a pool below. You can view the falls from above or take a walkway down to the pool and see the falls from below.
Aside from that, this 120-acre park has a 4.5-mile network of trails that winds throughout this lush, heavily wooded space. Some of the trails are easy, some are steep.
Hiking the park, you’ll get a healthy dose of thick broadleaf trees and tall lodgepole pines.
If you’ve seen the movie “Where the Red Fern Grows,” the park might look familiar: It was filmed here.
The park also has RV campsites (a few of which have full hook-ups) as well as tent sites.
If you’re looking for more unique accommodations, reserve one of the park’s five yurts — climate-controlled and equipped with a microwave oven, a small refrigerator and electrical hookups. Each yurt can sleep between four to six people.
Looking for more to do? Natural Falls State Park also has an 18-hole disc golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, a playground and on-site fishing.
The park is about two hours east of Tulsa on U.S. 412.
• Try your luck at the
in West Siloam Springs. Cherokee Casino and Hotel
• Are you into water sports? Head further east and paddle at the
. Siloam Springs Kayak Park
• Bring your mountain bike and drive to Bentonville, and see why it calls itself the
with numerous trail systems in and around the city. “mountain biking capital of the world,”
— By Bob Doucette, Tulsa World Magazine
5. Talimena National Scenic Byway: Beauty mixes with history
The Talimena trip is Oklahoma’s best-known scenic drive, known for its beauty. Tulsa World Magazine file
The Talimena National Scenic Byway is Oklahoma’s best-known scenic drive. It might even be called heavenly.
It’s 54 miles, with 40 miles of it in Oklahoma, and has 22 designated vistas. The byway stretches along Oklahoma 1 and Arkansas 88 from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas.
Drivers wind through the Ouachita National Forest with the Kiamichi Mountains as the backdrop.
The road dips and swirls along the ridgeline 2,000 feet over valley floors.
Hickory, blackjack oak and southern pine make their way upward along the slopes to the crest of the mountains.
While the scenic byway gets a lot of attention in the fall for its striking foliage display, Talimena also makes a beautiful drive in spring. The surrounding forest comes alive with green as winter fades away.
Stop at some of the area’s most popular destinations, including Talimena State Park, the Ouachita National Forest and the Cedar Lake Recreation Area. The route is also rich with history. Of note, Deadman Vista was a site lawmen used to hang horse thieves in the 1800s. Horse Thief Springs, another vista, is where outlaws watered their mounts.
Without stopping, the entire drive takes a total of one hour and 10 minutes. Hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding and more outdoor activities are available year-round.
Don't miss: • Less than 30 minutes out from Mena is Queen Wilhelmina State Park and Lodge at 3877 Highway 88 West, Mena, Arkansas. Originally built in 1898 for railroad passengers, Dutch investors named the lodge after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. • Pam's Hateful Hussy Diner, 304 Dallas St., Talihina, is an icon in these parts. This friendly restaurant serves homestyle food made fresh daily. • In a former bootlegger’s hide-out, travelers find The Rock House at 52060 Blackjack Ridge Drive, Talihina. It offers fine dining an each table offers panoramic views of the Kiamichi Mountain Range, the Potato Hills and Buffalo Mountain.
— By Nicole Marshall Middleton, Tulsa World Magazine
6. Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: Largest patch of native tallgrass left on Earth
Bison graze at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska in August. Photo by Tom Gilbert, Tulsa World Magazine
The largest patch of native tallgrass left on Earth, the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve sprawls across more than 39,000 acres of Osage County an hour and a half northwest of Tulsa.
The preserve offers mostly rough, unpaved roads and sparse amenities because the focus remains on conservation, not tourism. But it nonetheless attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year to enjoy the epic scenery, which can stretch for miles across the prairie.
Bison are the most popular attraction, with more than 2,500 roaming free across the preserve. But the prairie is also home to more than 700 species of plants, more than 250 birds and 80 mammals.
Most visitors stick to a 15-mile road that leads from the main gate to the preserve headquarters and gift shop, where a historic 1920 ranch bunkhouse offers public restrooms. Along the way, the route passes four scenic turnouts, picnic locations, a self-guided nature walk and a two-mile hiking trail.
Starting and ending in Pawhuska, the drive takes about two hours at a leisurely pace with time for stopping.
But Pawhuska itself will demand some time as well. Although it has a population of less than 4,000, the town has developed into a significant tourist attraction in its own right. Don't miss: Woolaroc Museum: Half an hour east of Pawhuska, the 3,700-acre estate was built in 1925 for Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Company. The 50,000-square-foot museum focuses on the cultural heritage of the early West, with artifacts from about 40 Native American tribes along with an impressive collection of Colt and Winchester firearms. Bartlesville Union Depot: Half an hour northeast of Pawhuska, the historic train station features the last remaining Santa Fe-type "2-10-2" steam locomotive. Built in 1903, engine No. 940 operated for a half century across Oklahoma and five other states. Osage Hills State Park: Twenty minutes north of Pawhuska, the park was an Osage tribal settlement, but today it offers one of the most convenient places to stay overnight while visiting the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
— By Michael Overall, Tulsa World Magazine
7. Little Blue: Destination for photo ops, campers, anglers and explorers
Depending on how much water is being unleashed, the spillway at Little Blue can be peaceful or roaring. Photo by Jimmie Tramel, Tulsa World Magazine
It’s impressive when water comes roaring down the rocks at the Little Blue Area at Grand Lake State Park near Disney.
Depending on how much water is flowing, the atmosphere can be serene or it can be powerful, with mist from the water peppering those who stand and watch from a distance.
Little Blue isn’t just a place for photo ops. It’s a bring-your-tent-and-ice-chest area.
Camping spots are available on site and, hey, if the kids need something to do while you’re kicking back and relaxing, they can play in a creek that runs adjacent to the camping area. The creek provides welcome relief from the heat during summer months.
To the west of the swimming hole is where the water churns down the rocks. When there’s no water pouring down the hillside, visitors sometimes climb the rocks to go exploring. Campers and visitors bring rods and reels to go fishing below the spillway.
Little Blue is located about 65 miles northeast of Tulsa. Leashed pets are welcome, according to
travelok.com, and the park is open 24 hours a day.
Stores are nearby in Langley and Disney for campers who need to stock up or replenish supplies. If camping isn’t your thing, it’s at least worthwhile to show up for photo ops below the spillway.
Hogan’s Off Road Park is located beside the neighboring dam spillway. The park gives off-roaders easy access to the range with about 5 square miles of trails and rock structures for rock crawlers.
John Sumner’s Big Meat Run has a 20-plus-year history in Disney. Thousands of people head to the rocks below Pensacola Dam for an annual weekend of riding and fun.
• People exploring the area can visit the
Grand River Dam Authority Ecosystems and Education Center and book a tour of the Pensacola Dam.
8. Little Sahara: Like visiting another country
Little Sahara State Park in Woods County has 1,600 acres of sand that is used by ATV riders and campers. Tulsa World Magazine file
For a surreal experience that feels as if you have traveled across the globe, head west three hours to Little Sahara.
The name sort of says it all.
It’s a desert-like environment covered by sand dunes.
The main attractions at Little Sahara State Park, 101 Main St. (from U.S. 412, go 7 miles north on U.S. 281) in Waynoka, are dune buggy and ATV-riding across the sand dunes. Visitors can bring their own ATV or rent one off-site by a private vendor.
Little Sahara State Park has over 1,600 acres of sand dunes, ranging in height from 25 to 75 feet. The vast dunes have formed over time from terrace deposits, remnants of prehistoric times when the Cimarron River flowed over the entire area.
One of Little Sahara’s biggest events happens in the spring — but it might not be fit for everyone.
The Waynoka Rattlesnake Hunt, held the first weekend after Easter, is April 23-24 this year. The hunt custom dates back to the 1940s when area farmers had snakes attacking their livestock. Over time, it became a festival.
But one of the best things you can do at Little Sahara is sit on top of a seven-story-tall sand dune and watch the glow of the western sunset growing brighter. Then you will know this unique little desert is truly pure Oklahoma.
• En route to Little Sahara from Tulsa, make a stop at the
Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, 507 S. Fourth St., in Enid. The exhibits take visitors on a journey through history from life before and after the Land Run of 1893, to early settlers, oil and gas, the story of Enid and Phillips University.
Railroad Museum of Oklahoma, 702 N. Washington, Enid, named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, the museum houses one of the largest collections of railroad material in the United States.
• Just north and west of Little Sahara is
Alabaster Caverns State Park at 217036 Oklahoma 50A, Freedom. Explore one of the largest natural gypsum caves in the world.
— By Nicole Marshall Middleton, Tulsa World Magazine
9. Red Rock Canyon and Gloss Mountain State Park
Gloss Mountain State Park features beautiful, scenic mesas. Photo courtesy of Lori Duckworth, Oklahoma Tourism
Two scenic examples of Oklahoma’s diverse topography feature striking red dirt formations — Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park in Hinton and Gloss Mountain State Park in Fairview.
The western Oklahoma parks, located about 90 minutes apart, have widely varying activities, but both areas are visually vibrant and family friendly.
Red Rock Canyon is a former state park that has been privately owned since 2018. It’s a popular spot for rappelling, though visitors must bring their own ropes and gear. Other activities include fishing, hiking trails and swimming in a large pool with a climbing wall and slide. Camping enthusiasts can rough it in a tent, bring their RV or book a pop-up glamping tent for a hotel-like experience.
Gloss Mountain is a stunning landmark as well as a convenient roadside attraction for those traveling on U.S. 412. A trail of stairs up rocky Cathedral Mountain leads to the top of a scenic lookout spot. The land contains many shiny selenite crystals, which might account for some calling it “Glass Mountain.” There is no camping at Gloss, but visitors can picnic, walk around and view wildlife.
• At the
Hinton Historical Museum and Parker House, 801 S. Broadway, one can see the progression of washing machines from the scrub board to the wringer washer, antique cars and bicycles. The Parker House contains local relics, including Oklahoma's largest horse carriage collection and the nation's second largest barbwire collection. Other exhibits include the state's largest antique phone collection, American Indian items and pioneer items.
• If you're looking for a sit-down meal near Gloss Mountain, take a quick jog south on U.S. 60 at Orienta to stop at
El Maya Mexican Cuisine, 508 S. Main St., in Fairview. Online reviews praise the margaritas, salsa, fajitas and menu variety, including the kids' options.
• Baseball fans won't want to miss the
Johnny Bench Museum, 202 W. Main St., in Binger. Memorabilia includes the former Cincinnati Reds star's Gold Gloves, All-Star Game bats, trophies and more. The museum is free to enter.
— By Stacey Dickens, Tulsa World Magazine
10. Black Mesa
The key word for Black Mesa is “up” — as in going up and looking up.
During the day, one can hike to the highest point in Oklahoma at 4,973 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Tulsa’s elevation is 722 feet.) The 8.5-mile trail is in the remote Black Mesa Nature Preserve, which is run in conjunction with the state park, near Kenton (pop. 5). The preserve is home to animals such as mule deer, golden eagles, piñon jays and red-tailed hawks.
At night, sit back and take in an awe-inspiring display of the Milky Way. Black Mesa State Park offers some of the darkest skies on public land in the nation. Star-gazing enthusiasts flock here each August to watch the Perseid meteor shower, but any clear night provides an excellent opportunity to glimpse skies unpolluted by light.
Hundreds turn out each fall for the long-running Okie-Tex Star Party, hosted by the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. The gathering takes place at Camp Billy Joe, just outside Kenton, and features guest speakers, meals and accommodations.
Other points of interest are Lake Carl Etling, which offers fishing for bass, bluegill sunfish, walleye and flathead catfish, and the Preston Monument that marks the meeting point of Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico. The area is rich in ancient history as well: Dinosaur footprints can be found at the preserve, which is named for black lava rock.
11. Turner Falls Park: Experience natural beauty
Turner Falls Park, managed by the city of Davis, is home to great swimming, one of Oklahoma’s largest waterfalls and is very popular with summer crowds. Tulsa World Magazine file
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic summer getaway than a day spent at Turner Falls Park in Davis.
Located in the Arbuckle Mountains on 1,500 acres, the park is home to a 77-foot waterfall, with a natural swimming pool formed at its base. Another swimming hole, Blue Hole, has both a slide and a diving board for summertime fun. This park, however, is loved for much more than its swimming areas — guests can also enjoy hiking, camping, cabins, picnic areas and even RV sites with convenient hookups for overnight stays.
There are many unique features that make Turner Falls Park such an enjoyable place to explore. Wildlife such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys and more roam the park freely. For geology enthusiasts, the park is filled with natural wonders such as caves, conglomerate formations, limestone, granite, shale and limestone. What’s more, a historic castle constructed in 1930 is on the property for all to enjoy.
“There’s just a mystique about the park that people fall in love with when they come in because of its beauty,” said Cathi Neal, sales and service manager at Turner Falls Park. “It’s very cool to watch families come and have quality family time while being outdoors. Internet and phone service isn’t the greatest here, so people are actually interacting with each other and having a good time.”
Don't miss: • The Arbuckle Wilderness Park is a fun attraction located on over 200 acres and features hundreds of exotic animals, a house of reptiles and a petting zoo. Come feed the animals or drive through the park in the comfort of your car. • Found in nearby Sulphur, the Chickasaw Cultural Center allows guests to take a deep dive into Native American history and culture. Learn more about the Chickasaw people through performances, collections, exhibits and much more. • About 25 minutes away from the park in Pauls Valley, the Toy and Action Figure Museum is a roadside attraction dedicated to the art and sculpture of action figures. Thousands of rare, collectible action figures are on display.
— By Grace Wood, Tulsa World Magazine
12. Gathering Place
Featuring an array of native plants and wildlife, Gathering Place was designed to blend smoothly into the Tulsa landscape. The park’s rolling lawns, hills, walking trails, gardens and groves provide a variety of scenery.
Gathering Place, designed by Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, has a mix of ecological regions such as prairies, wetlands and forests.
The park’s 66.5 acres of gardens contain 1.2 million plants and shrubs, 400 species of plants and 16 acres of wildflowers. Its website says 400 trees were saved while the park was being built and 6,000 new trees were planted.
Gathering Place is a great place to see wildlife. At Peggy’s Pond, you can find wetland-dwellers such as the great blue heron and dragonflies. Turtles, frogs, ducks and fish can be found there, too.
Squirrels can be seen collecting acorns, and you might even spot a snake in the tall grasses. The state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, and owls have been seen there, as well as important pollinators such as butterflies and even bats. Two land bridges over Riverside Drive allow animals to experience the full range of their habitat. Spring blooms at the park include dogwood, Lenten rose, hyacinth, daffodils, crocus, viburnum, winter jasmine, bleeding hearts, magnolia, redbud and many more.
Creativity also blooms at the park. Gathering Place has works by local artists as well as traveling displays, such as the prestigious Kinsey African American Art and History Collection. Children can learn through play with the Art Start program. Past activities include making twig snowflakes, DIY wind chimes and eco-friendly Valentines.
Gathering Place also has beautiful architecture. The world-renowned Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects designed the park’s three major buildings: Williams Lodge, ONEOK Boathouse and the restroom cabana. The boathouse has the Vista restaurant and the Cabinet of Wonder, and the lodge is a welcoming retreat any time of year.
13. Robbers Cave: More than a hole-in-the-wall
Rock formations and trails are found at Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton. Photo by Stephen Pingry, Tulsa World Magazine
Robbers Cave State Park gets its name from a void among some boulders where bad guys may have once hidden out, but it is in fact much more than that.
Located about 120 miles southeast of Tulsa in the Sans Bois Mountains,
the 8,246-acre enclave has just about everything an outdoor enthusiast could want, whether spending an afternoon or a week. Among the miles of mountain trails is one to fit just about any hiker’s level of endurance, and the three lakes are available for fishing and boating. Some areas are open to seasonal hunting.
Campsites for everything from pup tents to RVs are available, as are group camps, cabins and a 20-room lodge. Other accommodations include equestrian campsites and yurts.
Now, about that name.
There is some reason to think a little marketing may have been involved. The park was originally called Latimer State Park, for the county in which it was located, and occupied 120 acres donated by Wilburton newspaper publisher Carlton Weaver.
A Texas native, Weaver had been a delegate to Oklahoma’s constitutional convention in 1907 and was elected to the Legislature in 1930. Somehow, he managed to get himself chosen speaker of the House of Representatives in his one and only term.
Weaver, who died in 1947, is buried in the park.
By 1935, Latimer State Park had become Robbers Cave State Park. The origins of the name, and the legends surrounding the cave itself, are murky.
The general narrative is that outlaw bands used the cave as far back as the American Civil War. Situated atop a steep rock slope, it is easily defended and somewhat hidden from view below.
The most popular legends have both Belle Starr and the James Gang hiding out there, though there is no definitive proof either were ever there. A painting on one wall of a pony and a six-pointed star are thought to refer to Samuel “Pony” Starr, a rancher and relative by marriage of Belle Starr. The names “Jack Pone” and “Pat Casey,” who apparently were known as outlaws in territorial days, are carved near the cave. As late as the 1930s, George “Pretty Boy” Floyd and his associates were known to hide in the area, although not necessarily in the cave.
Perhaps the best evidence that the park was once an outlaw hideout was found in 1952, not at the cave but less than a mile away in a stream bed. There, a Boy Scout camp supervisor and his wife, while seining for minnows, discovered more than 180 gold wedding bands, presumably the loot from a long-forgotten robbery.
• The concept behind the ranch
Simply Country Ranch just north of McAlester is to educate people on what it is really like to work on a farm or ranch. There is also a petting zoo with sheep, goats, one alpaca and donkeys, and they hold birthday parties, too. • Lovera’s Famous Italian Market, 95 W. Sixth St., Krebs, is a small Italian-style market that has been around since 1946. It’s where you’ll find hand-made artisan cheeses and sausages.
— By Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Magazine
14. Tulsa's skyline: Unique, picturesque
Tulsa has more than two dozen buildings that stand more than 200 feet tall. Photo by Stephen Pingry, Tulsa World Magazine file
The Tulsa skyline dates more or less to the mid-1910s with the construction of three tall structures in three consecutive years.
First came the Gothic spires of Holy Family Cathedral, dedicated on April 1, 1914. Reaching 251 feet at Eighth Street and Boulder Avenue, it remained the tallest building in Tulsa until the Mayo Hotel opened nine years later.
Then came Exchange National Bank, a forerunner of today’s Bank of Oklahoma, which built Tulsa’s first “skyscraper” in 1917. Originally 13 stories, it underwent several expansions over the years before reaching a total height of 400 feet with a lighted cupola on the roof. Today it is known as the 320 South Boston Building.
Finally, Cosden Oil opened a 15-story corporate headquarters in 1918 at Fourth Street and Boston, where a major expansion increased it to 36 stories in 1984 and added one the skyline’s most recognizable features — the green-copper roof of what is now called the Mid-Continent Tower.
Tulsa can boast of having one of the most picturesque skylines, with several unmistakable landmarks that make the city unique, from the red and green tiles on the Philtower roof to the “hypodermic needle” shape of the University Club condos.
Don't miss: • One particularly nice view comes while looking west on Sixth Street from Utica Avenue, where the road seems to head straight toward a pair of skyscrapers, the Mid-Continent and First Place Tower. It’s an angle more Tulsans have come to appreciate recently as Sixth and Utica has become a popular craft beer district. • From the south, Maple Park offers one of the most dramatic views of the skyline with Boston Avenue Methodist Church’s spectacular art deco bell tower in the foreground. • Standpipe Hill offers one of the best views from the north. Now part of Oklahoma State University’s Tulsa campus, the hill served as the location of the city’s first water tower and has been a popular place to photograph the downtown area since the late 1800s.
— By Michael Overall, Tulsa World Magazine
Tulsa World Newsroom: Oklahoma’s 14 most beautiful places to visit