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CLICK HERE for full video on this location including camping accommodations and dig site information
Finding a campground which also offers unique activities is something I truly enjoy. While many might have hiking or lake activities, finding something which is a bit outside of the box is a little more of a rare find, especially in certain areas of the country. Living next to Oklahoma and exploring it most of my life, I always thought that Oklahoma’s camping was just an extension of Texas, very similar in nature, climate and vegetation. That was until I discovered the Great Salt Plains State Park in northern Oklahoma.
Removed from much of popular civilization the campground is pretty well off the beaten path. Neighboring the small community of Jet, you will drive for miles and miles seeing only farmland with an occasional silo marking a town in this section of Oklahoma. Then out of nowhere the farms transition into a white glaze which is unmatched by the lands around. It almost looks as though snow is laying in the distance, but snow it is not…. It is salt!
Pulling into the Great Salt Plains State Park there are a variety of options for accommodation you will want to explore. Offering cabins at a reasonable$99 a night, unimproved camping for$14 and RV camping from$22-$25 per night the price point is right on target for most campers. But one thing to note is that the campgrounds themselves are not directly on the Salt Plains, instead these are located closely to the waterways of the location, giving a much cooler and more shaded place to enjoy your time away from home.
With a variety of camping options also comes a variety of vantage points, with some campsites in the more improved locations highlighting the shoreline of the Arkansas River while others overlook the lake from beyond the spillway. I was very pleased with the views available and the variety of options for anglers, boaters and campers alike. This did not feel strictly like a lake campground like so many of the camps do in this region.
The office of the grounds does close rather early at 4 p.m. so it made catching staff a bit harder as there didn’t seem to be anyone actively patrolling the park, with the exception of the dig site for the salt plains…(yes, I said dig site… but we will get to that in a moment). With that being said and also limited cell service, you really need to make sure you are prepared before coming to this remote location.
Of the many camping loops, the one closest to the campground office seemed the least interesting to me personally. There was limited tree coverage, spaces were closely packed together and the restroom was only a port a potty, which in the Oklahoma sun can become a little less than desirable to visit. This portion of the park seemed to be designed mostly for RVs.
Another one which slightly was confusing to me was the official primitive site campground. There is a small community of homes which border the lake on this side and a small stretch of campground separates the homes from the shoreline itself. This seemed a bit uncomfortable for me camping solo to be basically right in someones backyard. This site had beautiful tall trees, great site spacing and the view was amazing so it was a bit unfortunate that this site was so close to everyone’s backyard.
The most appealing sites to me were those along the river which had amazing views and some of the most improved restrooms at the park. These were capable of accommodating both tents and RVs and had connections and amenities which would far surpass other campsites. Here you could find running water, flush toilets and showers in addition to a playground for the kiddos, fish cleaning stations and trash services. A small outdoor chapel/ampitheater was available in this area as well which would be ideal for a group camp.
Sites in this area are the highest of the park ranging between $22 and$25 but they are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, grills, lantern hooks and easy to pull in and out areas. You can literally walk to the water and be in the river playing or fishing in seconds from any site in this location.
But now to the points of interest of this park…. The Salt Plains!
The unique ecosystem of this area is one to come out and see. There are several observation points in which you can view the birds and other wildlife which call this area home. But one of the things which makes it differ so much from other habitats are the Selenite crystals which can be found as a result of the salt and water table in this area. Birds are drawn to these and often you will find small nests housing eggs lined in crystals. It is unique to say the least.
But if you are not a bird watcher, there is still something for you…. Digging for Crystals! Yep, you can get hands on and dig into the plains around 2 feet down and find that the water will start flooding into the hole you created. From here you simply need to splash water along the sides of your new dig and expose your jewels to take harvest. Sound to good to be true? Well it is not! It really is that easy!!
And unlike the locations across the country which tell you to not take the sands, dirt, rocks or formations with you, you can take everything you find home with you!!
It is a great activity which can leave you busy for minutes, hours or even days and something which is fun for the entire family. On my trip we started early on an August morning and dug for approximately 3 hours. We brought our own sifters, a few jugs of water for cleaning off our finds and a shovel which seemed to be all we needed to find more than our fair share of crystals.
Crystals come in many shapes and sizes but the most coveted are large clusters or hourglass crystals. The crystals are mineral rich and appear to have a chocolate brown to redish tone based on the contents found in the soil which create them. And the unique thing about them and why we are allowed to take what we find home, is they are constantly regenerating.
Dig site is closed from October to April for migration of wildlife so you will want to plan a trip during the peak months to assure you will be able to dig. Don’t worry about crowds it isn’t terrible even on the most busy of days and there are plenty of crystals to be found.
- Come early if you need park assistance. Offices close at 4 p.m. however you can check into sites through the honor box system.
- Make sure to cruise Highway 11 when in the area and check out the Artesian Well which offers motorists a cool drink of water along the way which is fresh and delicious. Bring your jugs and fill them up if you would like.
- Cabin rentals must be booked in advance as there are limited numbers available.
For this trip knowing that the shade would be limited on the Great Salt Plains I made sure to pack the Banner& Oak Scout Hat in Charcoal Grey. This hat is designed as a summer hat with a snapback and breathable meshing to allow heat to escape and wind to come through.
I wanted something which would provide a bit more shade for my face than simply wearing a bandana to pull my hair back and this was a great fit for doing just that.
The hat itself is easy to size and while it is a men’s hat it easily could be sized down to fit my head and still feel comfortable yet secure. It did not appear bunched in the back like some men’s hats can when worn by women, I personally have a relatively small head so this is a huge deal to me.
The charcoal color did not attract as much heat as I thought it might and I felt comfortable even being out for 3 hours diggings and 2 hours exploring the day before.
The design of the hat is a must for anyone who, like myself, loves tent camping as the patch is a tent with a unique design and a great way to express yourself even in the most simplistic of ways.
I think a lot of people neglect to realize that they can wear a basic camping or exploring outfit and then completely change the vibe with the addition of the right hat. From the design and color to the way you wear your hat, all of these things are expressive of your own unique personality. I will definitely be adding this hat to my stack of hats I take on lengthy road trips, it has great feel to it, the brim was shaped well and mesh back makes it perfect for warm to hot climates.
- Don’t be afraid to explore different styles from Banner& Oak. There are several styles which are available to both men and women which can be great for taking your camping look to the next level.
- Never forget a hat, this is not only fashion but function as it provides a shade for your face and also can greatly aid in your internal temperature control. During winter months especially this is important as you lost the vast majority of your body heat through your head.
There was several things of interest if you like geology. RV sites were easy to get into. Quiet place to stop. Only complaint is the showers require quarters to operate (they don’t charge for day use) was the answer we were given when we asked about it.
This state park is really cool. There is a huge salt plain where you can dig for crystals. Bring your own shovel and start digging. After a foot or two the hole will begin to fill with water. You then use the water to wash away the dirt and reveal the crystals. They are very easy to find. It’s a great activity for kids. But there is no shade and it can get hot and windy so bring water and sunscreen. Crystal digging is only available from April 1 to October 15 due to the area being a migration stop for whooping cranes. We camped at the river road campsite. It was a pretty good campsite next to the river. Has a playground and the bathroom was pretty clean. Make it a point to walk up the stairs to the top of the dam. There is a great view of the lake.
This area of Oklahoma is very unique to the rest of the state other than the far western panhandle. Mesas rise up above the land and provide some great scenery. It feels like New Mexico if it weren’t for the red dirt. This park is basically just a stop on the side of the road. There is a primitive bathroom and a vending machine and that’s about it. The hike up the mountain is pretty steep but it’s mostly all stairs. It probably takes 5-10 minutes. The top of the Mesa has some great scenery and picture ops. It gets pretty hot here so bring some water. I probably wouldn’t recommend taking a trip just to Gloss Mountain but if you’re in the area it’s worth it.
We really enjoyed the cave tour. A very knowledgeable guide took us through the cave and showed us all the cave features. The cave tour is a great idea in the heat of the summer since it’s nice and cool down there. We hiked a couple of the trails. There were some strenuous parts but the scenery is worth it. The RV sites looked nice but I don’t think I’d want to tent camp here. The tent camping site is on a slope and there doesn’t really seem to be a good place to pitch a tent. Great for a day trip though.
The Great Salt Plains is great place to go for an adventure. You could spend hours just digging up the crystals on the salt plains. I would absolutely recommend everyone to spend the weekend here just relaxing and having a ton of fun. The RV Camp sites were very clean and the cleaning staff that were there when we went were very friendly.
Need better bathrooms and camping spaces are way to close together.