We discovered this beautiful, peaceful site by accident on a hot summer day. Traveling north towards Tahlequah, Oklahoma I caught a glimpse of a brown sign, as we travel on I thought about that sign and made my decision and asked my husband to turn around. He knows me well enough to know if I want to turn around and since he is so nice he turned around. I couldn’t find any information regarding the campsite but needed to check it out. The sign on the road stated 5 miles and the road was paved. We did not encounter anymore signs along the way and the road was in decent shape, narrow and I at one point I was able to catch a glimpse of water way down below us. I realized then that we were going to have to head down the mountain at some point. It was rather steep going down, where we were going no large travel trailer should go. I suggest that only tent campers or very high clearance cars or trucks go. There was only the one hill that had to be traveled down but that means that you will need to climb the hill on your return trip. At the end of the 5 miles I could see the road turn to gravel and the only sign that you have arrived is a Pack It In Pack It Out sign. We still weren’t sure but there was a gentleman loading a kayak that we were able to ask if we had arrived at the Horseshoe Bend Primitive Campground. He was not sure about it being a campground but said that he would see people camped in tents every so often. The Illinois River, at this point, is a beautiful green and it is understandable why it is called Horseshoe Bend. There is a natural bend in the river that is in the shape of a horseshoe. GPS shows the nearest town is Park Hill Oklahoma . Directions: North to Tahlequah, OK on Highway 82; turn right onto Horseshoe Bend Road. I do not have exact but GPS location is N 35.821081
W 99.903752. Continue toward the Illinois River. The road is very steep down into the valley. It is a narrow country road and is pavement all the way. The river is narrow at this point, moving but not at a fast pace. Kayakers put in and paddle upstream and float back to boat landing. There is a small parking area for boats and trailers. Once you reach the river turn to the right or left to search for a campsite. The road to the right is the road most traveled but warning it is a dirt track and it is severely rutted and potholed. If it has rained prior or while you are camping the road will be a total mess and campers will have a difficult time getting in or out. I walked in and fell in love. What a perfect place to spend a couple of weeks. Walk it first and then drive in if you are able. There are several camping spots and I found one campfire. You will be right along side the river with the trees overhanging your site. Across the river will be rock cliffs that make you want to launch the kayak and explore. I had to pick up some trash so please PACK IT IN PACK IT OUT. The Horseshoe Bend Primitive Campsite is located a few miles from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Cherokee County in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. In the 19th century it was established as the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Tahlequah has been named one of the top 100 Best Small Towns in America. The Cherokee Heritage Center is located in the town of Tahlequah. You will find a recreated ancient Cherokee village of Diligwa. The Illinois River is considered one of Oklahoma’s best canoe waterways. There is the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah if you find a need for a bit of artificial excitement. There are several vendors that offer floats or you may visit a nature and wildlife preserve that is in the area. The best is the beautiful natural site on the Illinois River at the Horseshoe Bend Primitive Campground.
Better than when you found it
Stay safe Happy Travels