March, 2020 – Idabel, Oklahoma

The trip west from Arkansas was along US highways back to the Broken Bow and Idabel area, just north of Texarkana where we were just a week ago.  We were taking our time moving north to give spring a chance to catch up with us.  Pine Creek Cove Campground is another Corps of Engineers campground on the shores of Pine Creek Lake.  Once again we did not have any reservation, however, there were plenty of sites available.  The campground is small with less than 50 sites and it is laid out in three small loops.  We got a site on the newest loop which meant all of them were paved.  I was able to back the RV easily into the site and we quickly got set up.  The only draw back to the campground was the absence of trees as they had all been removed after a storm and the bathroom was a single pit toilet.  There was a modern bathroom at the dump station near the entrance, however, we just used the pit toilet, which was at least cleaned regularly.  With no trees we were once again exposed to the wind which rocked the trailer during the storms later in the week.

Campsite

However, Tuesday was a nice day so we went out in search of a hike.  We began our search at the Little River National Wildlife Refuge.  Our GPS took us to a dirt road that was closed with no buildings in sight.  There was suppose to be a Visitor Center/Headquarters on the property so we drove around the edges of the refuge looking for another location.  We never found anything and without at least a map of the refuge we were concerned about trusting the roads after all the rain the past few weeks.  So instead we headed on north to Beavers Bend State Park.  This turned out to be a major state park with multiple facilities and opportunities for outdoor recreation.  It is advertised as one of the more popular state parks in Oklahoma and that is certainly true.  There were a lot of families with young children in the park making it difficult to find a parking space for our huge truck.  And this was during the middle of the week.  We guessed that Texas must be having its spring break since most of the car tags were from Texas.  In any case, we found a parking spot we could get in across the road from the Forest Heritage Center Museum.  It was also fairly crowded but still an interesting place to visit.  They had a number of exhibits about the history of forests in the region beginning with prehistoric times and up through commercial forestry practices of today.  Especially since I am already very knowledgeable about Oklahoma forestry since I got my undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State, it was fun refreshing my memory.  After spending about an hour in the museum we walked back to the truck and ate some lunch.  Then we went to explore the Forest Heritage Trail alongside Beaver Creek.  There was so much foot traffic along the trail and creek that the path itself was difficult to see, however, it did not really matters.  There were quite a few families enjoying wading in the creek as it was a nice warm March day.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll only the creek ourselves.

Wednesday was again a nice day with rain in the forecast for the rest of the week, so we headed out to explore Fort Towson State Historic Site.  Fort Towson was established in 1824, before the Trail of Tears, to quell problems between the Indians and settlers moving in from the Arkansas Territory.  It also served as an outpost between the US and Mexico, which at that time controlled Texas.  During the 1830s it served as the gateway for settlers going to Texas as the Mexican government was encouraging them.  However, after the Texas Revolution in 1836 it became an outpost between the US and the Republic of Texas.  This was also the period that the Choctaw Indians were forced to migrate from Mississippi and Fort Towson was the point of dispersal.  The fort was also an important staging area during the Mexican War in 1846.  Finally, as the frontier moved west the fort was abandoned in 1856.  Today, there is not much left of the fort except for the foundations of the buildings.  There has been numerous archeological digs in the fort over the years and all the buildings have been located.  There is a very nice museum at the site with a detailed history of the area and fort.  I was very surprised to learn that while most of the Choctaw Indians choose to live on small farms in a life style similar to where they came from, some established large plantations with anti-bellum homes and slaves, both African-American and Indians.  After exploring the museum it is a short walk to the ruins of the fort where there are interpretive signs about each building.

Since it only took a couple of hours to explore the museum and fort, we took advantage of a suggestion from the volunteer at the museum.  He suggested we explore the ruins of the town of Doaksville, which was just north of the town of Fort Towson.  Doaksville was the Choctaw village that grew up near Fort Towson.  From 1831 until the railroads came in the 1879s, Doaksville was a major town in Indian Territory.  In fact, in 1850, it was the largest town in the territory and from 1860 to 1863 it was the capital of the Choctaw Nation.  However, the Civil War ruined agriculture and commerce in the area and when the railroad bypassed Doaksville for the town of Fort Towson to the south, it spelled the end to the town.  Today, little is left of Doaksville except for some photographs and building foundations.  The state historical society has erected a nice walkway through the ruins and interpretive signs about them.  It was very interesting addition to our exploration of Fort Towson, although it would have been difficult to find without directions from the volunteer at the historic site.  There are no signs on the highway for it and we even had trouble finding the pathway as it begins on the backside of Fort Towson cemetery.  However, it was well worth the effort and earns a spot in our list of hidden jewels.

As predicted the weather turned wet on Thursday so we stayed in the campground and on Friday travel back to the casino in Broken Bow.  Whereas, we came out slightly ahead the last time we were at this casino two weeks ago, our luck ran more to normal and we came out with about half of our stake.

The weather on Saturday was marginally better so we headed to Idabel and the Museum of the Red River.  This was another suggestion from the volunteer at Fort Towson and we expected to be treated to some detailed history of the Red River.  However, this museum was not about the history of the region.  Instead it is a cultural center and repository of art and cultural items from all over the world.  Originally it was focused on the southwest Indian culture, however, it soon expanded to all of the Americas and eventually around the world.  They have artwork, pottery, baskets, and other items that are thousands of years old to modern day objects.  It is also the home of the Oklahoma dinosaur which was a large predator, similar to a T-Rex.  Although the original fossils were found locally, they were not constructed of crystals and turned out to be very fragile.  Therefore a cast of the dinosaur is on display.  While it was not what we expected we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around and admiring the art work.  I would certainly recommend it for anyone interested in Indian art and pottery.

Sunday was again spent in the campground watching the growing concern over the pandemic.  For those of you reading this blog be aware that this will be the last post for a while that will be focused on our journeys.  As the concern and disruption of society caused by the virus grows, it will become our entire focus.  By the end of the week we were getting concerned about being allowed to travel and were close to deciding it was time to find a place to hunker down for a couple of months and it was certainly not going to be in a isolated campground!

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