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I recently spent 4 days at Beavers Bend State Park ("BBSP") on a camping trip with my brother. We had initially planned to go camping at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas; however, unfortunately we were unable to go due to the COVID crisis and Arkansas only allowing in-state residents to begin camping again on May 1st. As a result, we had to make a fall back plan so we landed on BBSP. Since we didn't make a reservation until the last minute, the only camping area with sites available for the full length of our trip was in the "Hochatown Area."
Per a sign I noticed on the side of a local business during our trip, "Hochatown" is pronounced as follows: (1) "HO" - like Santa Claus, "Ho, Ho, Ho!" (2) "CH" - like CHicken, not a "K" (3) "A" - like "UH" (4) "TOWN" - Well, you know, like "TOWN"
First of all, BBSP is HUGE and very spread out. If you're looking for a park where you can pretty much walk or ride a bike everywhere during your trip, this is probably not your place. It's possible, but it wouldn't be enjoyable in my opinion. Broadly, the park is generally located on the western side of the Broken Bow Reservoir and runs south to north across approximately 12-15 miles. The hub of activity containing the typical state park-esque things is in the southern section of the park.
There are basically two general sections of the park, both of which have several camping areas within them. One is on the north side of the park and the other on the south. The northern half is the Hochatown area (or “Lake Area”), while the southern half is the Beavers Bend area (or “River Area”). Where you camp will largely depend on what you plan to do.
As indicated above, the Hochatown area is close to the Lake. There are several different campgrounds in this area and it’s all very spread out. Basically, if you have a camper/rv, your options are Armadillo, Quail or Turkey. We stayed in Armadillo because that was the only area available. Of the three, I think Quail is probably the best area, but at the end of the day, I think they are probably all comparable. The sites in Armadillo were well shaded with level/paved pads. Picnic table, lantern hook, and fire pit. There was also a big pavilion right behind our site. If our kids were with us, it would’ve been nice in the event of rain. Some sites in Armadillo have sewer and others don’t. We were in site #4, no sewer. I was skeptical at first, but I really liked it. The bathhouse wasn’t open but it looked ok. Armadillo is about 300 yards away from the Lakeview Lodge. Leave Armadillo area, cross the street and make your way to the Lodge. There is a boat ramp and lots of area to enjoy the lake shore. The Lodge looked a little sketchy but generally probably decent. As for the other, non rv areas, those include: Blue Jay, Eagle, Coyote, Deer Drive, Turkey, Grasshopper, Firefly and Hawk. These are walk-in tent sites really close to the water. If you’re a tent person, these are very cool sites. All areas have bathhouses. In addition to water activities, there is a nice golf course a few miles north that runs along the lake (Cedar Creek Golf Course). We played a round during our trip and really enjoyed it. Reasonably priced ($40 for 18 with cart; $27 or so for 18 with cart at twilight, or after 4pm during daylight savings). It was a solid little course with some great views along the back 9. In addition to those things, there are several moderate hikes that are all around 3 miles in the Hochatown area. You can also combine them all and go on a mega 16 miler that takes you up and along the crest of the mountain overlooking the lake. Views are fantastic but would caution anyone who is not in shape or not accustomed to hiking. In short, if you’re planning to do a lot of boating and fishing, the Hochatown area will be your jam as there are multiple boat ramps and the marina is generally about the same distance from all the camping areas in the northern section of the park.
The southern area of the park is the Beavers Bend or River Area. From the outset, without question, this is preferable to Hochatown area in my view. This area of the park looks like something from a movie and there are several camping areas, including (from north to south): Hickory, Grapevine, Elm, Fern, Dogwood, Acorn and Cypress. Again, if you’re taking a camper/rv, you’ll be limited to Dogwood, Fern, Acorn or Cypress. Without a doubt, you will want to try for a spot in Acorn or Dogwood (in that order) first. Next is Fern, though it is right next to horse stables so unless you like the smell of horse poop, probably want to look at Cypress. Acorn and Dogwood areas have sites along the river that are amazing. The pads are great, and there is sewer. Specifically as to Fern, it is a small area that offers bigger sites and some seclusion while being on the river, but it’s generally people with trailers for horse related things due to proximity to stables.
Cypress is probably last or 3rd of these 4 areas for a few reasons. First, it sits across the road from Acorn and not on the water, but it is at least in close proximity to the river. Second, the pads are gravel/dirt and short. If you’ve got a rig that's anything longer than 17 ft, it could get tight in a hurry. Third, the trees make these sites really tight in addition to the length of each pad. Fourth, the sites are stacked on top of each other leaving hardly any room between sites. If you were taking kids, I could see that being a source of stress trying to keep your kids from encroaching on your neighbors 24/7. Basically, it’s just much less appealing overall than Acorn or Dogwood, but it is still probably better than the Hochatown area if you've got a smaller camper or a PUP like me.
The “main” park area is by far the southern half of the park, or River Area. This is where the visitor center and heritage center are located, both of which are fantastic. There is also a park general store and other concessionaires on site. Obviously that's are big plus to have access to those things, even if you aren't planning on using them. There are several different swimming areas along the river with sandy beaches that are clearly marked, as well as hiking trails and flat, paved trails for leisurely bike riding or, in my case, a path for my boys to use their little scooters. Dispersed among the camping areas are many, many cabins that can be rented. Some are nestled into the side of the hillside, while others look right out over the river. I have not stayed in a cabin but they appear to be quite nice. I also have a friend who stayed in a cabin at the park with his family for a week every summer and he raves about his experiences. In addition to trout fishing in the river, there are also numerous float trips you can take in this area of the park, most of which follow along the Mountain Fork River. In fact, there are even portions of the river south of the park (Lower Mountain Fork River) with Class III rapids for rafting. In the same area, there is the Lower Mountain Fork River Trout Fishery, which is a phenomenal flyfishing location. Overall, this area of the park looks like a movie. There is so much to do you can’t hit it all in a single trip.
Lastly, a few comments about the area surrounding BBSP. Being from Oklahoma, I will say that in my humble opinion, much of the state is not pretty at all. However, this area of the state is absolutely stunning and doesn’t look like Oklahoma; rather, it looks like Arkansas. With that said, the towns of Hochatown and Broken Bow are pretty rough and frankly sort of sketchy in all respects. Closer to the park (along 259), it is very “touristy” on both sides of the road. There are several restaurants, bars, gift shops, and activities like miniature golf and a go cart track. For my family, it’s a perfect spot for us, as my wife loves the tourist-type gift shops and my boys would love the mini-golf and go-carts. To that end, if you’re looking for something all natural, I would say you should either stay in the park, or just don’t go to Beavers Bend. Due to the geographical location of this park, it is situated in a spot that's nearly equidistant in all directions to Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. As a result, this is one of the most visited areas in Oklahoma. During our trip, it seemed like there were more Texas and Arkansas plates than Oklahoma. It's clearly a tourist-esque location, that's particularly true during the late spring and summer months.
Overall, even though I have visited several parks in Oklahoma, I haven't seen them all. Despite that, I feel confident in saying that Beavers Bend is probably the best the state has to offer in terms of state parks and camping. There is so many different things to do that it could appeal to anyone and the scenery is stunning. Plainly, you just can’t go wrong here, even if you end up in a less preferable camping area. If you live within a reasonable distance from this park, it’s definitely somewhere you should visit.
I live in Oklahoma and, in fact, spent 4 days in Broken Bow and Hochatown recently and these reviews crack me up. There isn’t a “Hochatown State Park” so I have no idea what these people were doing….
In fairness, there was perhaps, at one point in time, a Hochatown State Park, but that is no longer the case. Instead, this specific area of the state is home to Beavers Bend State Park (see my review of Beavers Bend for more details). There are several different areas for camping within the same general vicinity of Broken Bow and Hochatown. To the extent Hochatown is the location about which to provide a review, the correct area to review would be the Lakeview Lodge/Stevens Gap area on Broken Bow Lake in Hochatown, OK, almost exactly 10 miles north of Broken Bow proper and part of Beavers Bend State Park despite its separation from the main hub of activity in the Park. The Lodge is a traditional looking hotel. It is nestled on a ridge which overlooks the southern most area of the lake. Given the COVID issue, I wasn’t able to go into the Lodge. It looks to be a decent place, but could use a facelift, and the doors open to the outside which generally indicates a certain degree of sketchiness. The Lodge has a nice big boat ramp and swimming area on the shore of the lake. The marina is also very close to the Lodge for boat rentals, bait, and tackle needs.
For campers, there is a camping area across the road from the Lodge. This is the “Armadillo” area of Beavers Bend State Park. Some sites in Armadillo have sewer and some dont; all have water and power hookups. The bathhouse looked to be decent, though it was locked during my visit due to COVID. The pads for each site were paved, very large, and generally flat. I’ll try to find a picture of the site we used. There was lots of room, picnic table, lantern hook, and fire pit.
Basically, Beavers Bend State Park is separated into three separate camping areas. The Armadillo area is the northern most portion of the park and it is generally more geared toward lake activities given its proximity to the lake. The park information refers to the Lodge and Armadillo camping sites generally as the “Lake area.” Generally, there is a marked difference between the Lodge/Stevens Gap Area/Armadillo circle area. Without question, get a site in basically any other camping area except Armadillo unless you plan on doing nothing but taking your boat out every day/all day. Otherwise it’s basically like you aren’t even at the park, your just in some random woods with paved rectangles scattered around.
About 8-10 miles south of the Lake/Armadillo area is the main park office and visitor center (sort of the hub of activity) for Beavers Bend SP. This is the southern most area of the park, and the camp sites basically run along the shore of the Mountain Fork River. This is referred to as the “River area.” There are two camping areas in this section: Cypress and Acorn. Without question, the Acorn sites are the preferred sites (more detail in my Beavers Bend review). Get an Acorn site if you can - its that plain. The Cypress sites aren’t paved, they’re short, and really close together. However, like I described above, depending on what you’re planning on doing, either you camp in the worst area of the park (ie, lake area) or the best (ie, river area). It just so happens that the sites in the worst area are better than many of the sites in the best area (except Acorn). Cypress is a preferable area of the park to be in versus others, so there’s a trade off. The other section of Beavers Bend SP is in between the Lodge/Lake area and the southern most River area. Sort of confusing bc it is still technically on the river, but the third section is called the “Bend area” - hints the “Bend” in the Park’s name. The camp sites in this area follow along a large “C” bend in the river that sort of flows through the camp. There are a few different camping areas within this section of the Park, including group camping areas and many, many cabins that can be reserved. The whole southern area generally, and Acorn camping area specifically, are fantastic. It honestly looks like something from a movie. The visitor center is equally fantastic. Just a beautiful area. I discuss Beavers Bend State Park specifically in a separate review.
As for the mythical “Hochatown State Park,” again it doesn’t exist. The Lodge and Armadillo camping areas are on the North side of Beavers Bend SP. Just South of the Lodge is an area called “Stevens Gap.” There are walk in tent sites here that are all along the lakeshore. Really cool area if you’re tent camping.
As for the Lake and Armadillo camping area, my brother and me had a blast for 4 days. Armadillo circle was generally quiet and I thought our site (#4) wasn’t great, but not bad - it was solid. We caught a lot of fish in the lake and the scenery was beautiful. For anyone reading, bottom line is know where you’re going and don’t try to plan a trip to “Hochatown State Park.” If you do, you’ll be as disappointed as some of the poor souls who have posted reviews before me. I suppose my review would probably be just as bad if I had stayed at a fictional park. Good luck.
My brother and I were scheduled to stay in AR for a biannual camping trip and we’re forced to move to Beavers Bend State Park due to AR park closures.
We grabbed a site in the Armadillo loop near Lakeside Lodge. Campground is laid out well. Grass needed to be cut but otherwise a pretty camping area. None of the facilities were open given the pandemic but the lodge (which is being renovated) and the visitor center looked very nice. Campground was mostly 30/50 Amp, water, electric sites. There were some with sewer but they looked to be ADA sites. Nice concrete pads and fire rings.
The other camping areas are all easily accessible and the Acorn loop in the River Area was the prettiest as far as scenery. Plenty to do in Hochatown and there is a decent Wal-Mart in Broken Bow. There is plenty to do at Beavers Bend! We were both very happy with our time there.
Many flock to Broken Bow for their cabins and beautiful outdoor spaces. What better way to take advantage of those spaces than with a trip to Carson Creek!!
Carson Creek is a bit removed from the State Park access points and with that comes a unique charm which is fun for the family without quite the large crowds which sometimes can bottleneck into the State Parks.
There are three camping areas at Carson Creek, referred to as Quail, Turkey and Hawk. Both Quail and Turkey allow you to set up in an RV for $16 while Hawk is designed for primitive camping and is only $8. The sites cannot be reserved so much like other portions of the lake I do recommend arriving early on weekends during warmer months.
The camp offers great amenities for those camping here including standards such as fire rings and picnic tables and access to restrooms. Additionally they do have community style events at the campground which are nice for those visiting.
My favorite point of this campground was the access to the water. From the shore you can easily fish, swim or put a small boat in the water to explore.
The town of Hoochatown is just a short drive from this campsite and has everything you will need for supplies as well as some very fun and unique attractions to even further your experience. I spent an entire afternoon at the Hoochatown Petting Zoo enjoying the wildlife which includes a variety of species you won't find just everywhere.
A great way to spend a day, a weekend of a week away with a bit less crowds.
I've stayed here a couple of times the night before starting my hike on the Ouachita Trail. The OT is a 200+ mile trail and this is park is the Western Terminus. The park has tent and RV sites. The tent sites are level and clean.
The bathrooms and showers are very clean. It is a great place to grab a shower after a few days hiking. The showers have plenty of hot water and the water comes out a good rate to make it easy to knock off that trail dirt.
For a small daily fee you can park your car here for the duration of the hike. I have left my car here several times with no issues.
I loved this trail!! So pretty and full of great camping spots
Crater of Diamonds State Park is a place where you literally play the fun and exciting game of“finders, keepers.” The prize here being diamonds! In the middle of nowhere Arkansas(a.k.a. the town of Murfreesboro) is a field of 37 acres where for $10/day you can dig to your hearts’ content looking for diamonds making this the only diamond mine in the world open to the public. And don’t think this is a gimmick. Over 75,000 diamonds have been found in the“Crater” with an average of 600/year. The largest diamond found in North America was found at Crater of Diamonds topping out at 40.23 carats. In 1998, the Strawn-Wagner Diamond weighing 1.09 carats was graded by the American Gem Society as a 0/0/0“D” Flawless perfect diamond– a“one in a billion diamond”– and found right here in Arkansas.
The park was established in 1972 “to responsibly manage and interpret this unique site and to provide a meaningful diamond mining experience for all guests and future generations.” We find that pretty funny because we have never come across a state park whose intent is to provide a meaningful diamond mining experience mission. All the more reason we wanted to go! The parks campground is set among beautiful pine trees and offers full hook-up sites large enough to fit our 45’ RV without a problem. The campground has 47 nicely shaded RV sites with water/electric/sewer hookup(many of which have tent pads and five walk-in tent sites. The campground has two modern bathhouse with hot showers; one bathhouse includes a laundry and both were very clean and cared for all day long. If you need a dump station one is conveniently located as you leave the campground. There is also free Wi-Fi in the campground. There is a nice hiking trail that leaves from the campground and loops back around after venturing through the forest and along a river. It is not a long trail but a nice walk and we never saw anybody on it while we were there. Now back to diamond hunting. The“crater” is essentially a plowed field that is the eroded surface of a volcanic crater containing a variety of rocks, crystals, and gemstones. The field is plowed periodically to expose underlying layers of dirt and gems. The visitor center has interactive exhibits highlighting the unique history of the park and geology of Arkansas diamonds. They also tempt you with pictures of diamonds that have been found in the park. At the Diamond Discovery Center visitors learn about diamonds, but more importantly, techniques on how to find them.
Once you have rented (or brought your own) diamond digging equipment like trowels, shovels, buckets, sifting screens, etc. then it is time to head out into the crater. The techniques vary widely from walking along looking for smooth shiny diamonds (because dirt and mud don’t stick to the smooth surface of diamonds) to digging up a bucket full of dirt and sifting through water like gold mining. We talked to one man who uses a paint brush to lightly brush away loose dirt to reveal the diamonds. Diamonds come in a rainbow of colors but the predominant colors found here are white, brown, and yellow. If you think you found a precious stone, staff is on hand to positively identify it for you. And if you want it, you keep it! No matter what it is.