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Very pretty park with lots of trees in the campground, birdwatching and fishing! Family and group friendly. Sweet little wildwood chapel and nice trails. It's a popular park, well kept and friendly. Paved RV sites with water and electric, some a little too close together. Reservations must be made through Reserve America. The only distraction was the morning we left, when several small planes made practice landings and takeoffs at the nearby Jet Airport. They were so noisy when they flew over the campground and river that you couldn't hear anything but the engine noise. Not sure how often this happens. It was a Monday morning that day.
You can’t camp at the actual Salt Plains. We spent the day here and had such an awesome time. I took kids ages 3-12 and they all had a blast. Make sure to bring metal shovels and metal hand shovels bc the plastic ones will break, you will want sand buckets, egg cartons to put the crystals in bc when they come out they are still soft and brittle, sunscreen, lots of water, towels, baby wipes, a umbrella if you have one (we didn’t need it but a lot of people prefer them). I can’t stand sand/salt on me (think nails on a chalk board feeling) so I needed to shower pronto afterwards and couldn’t so lots of water to rinse off with is a good thing to have. You will have sand and salt all over your car inside and out FYI lol.
This is a county operated park located in Oxford, Kansas which is a few miles east off I 35. So it’s a convenient layover, especially considering the cost! If you don’t use the electricity it’s only $3.50 and if you choose to hook up to the electric, which is located on utility poles, then it’s $10 per night on the honor system. There’s a box next to the bath house where you leave your cash payment.
The park is very well kept and has a lot to offer with disc golf course (be aware that the course runs through the middle of the camping area), a playground, group picnic shelter, a basketball court, and a newer shower/bath house. This is only open between April 15th and October 15th. Water is available to fill your tank and there is a dump station on site too! At site 50 the water was next to the site, so if no one else is camping it could be a direct hook up. When I stayed there were only 2 other rigs here.
There are no specific designated sites, at least that are clearly designated. Just take the road into the park and then look for the poles which hold the electric boxes. You can pull into the grassy areas next to one of these. I was concerned about the ground being soft because it had just rained, but I had no problems in my 24’ class C rig.
Oxford is a small town, but across the main street from the park there’s a gas station/quick mart store and supplies are there. This is a fantastic peaceful spot with great night skies and the price is right! Let’s keep it our secret.
The camping at Great Salt Plains State park is a fine place to park the camper and stay, but most of the adventure is elsewhere in the park/refuge. You'll need to drive to get to almost everything.
We stayed at the Sandy Beach Campground. This review is for that campground. If I had to do it again (I will) I would stay at the River Road Campground. It's much more shaded, more isolated and along the river. Not to mention the awesome Cliff Swallow flights from under the river bridge!
The campsite is clean and simple. The sites on the western edge have more shade than the rest, the sites in the center of the loop can feel strangely exposed with little in the way of natural boundaries between sites.
Noise level: Look… this is a OK stake park lake site. Yes it's attached to a national refuge. Yes there are awesome things to see and do. But it's still a lakeside park. So, expect lots of huge 5th wheels with big outdoor speakers. In the summer I would guess there will be at least one camper who wants to share his music with you. It's a shame… but it's true. There is also a fighter training base adjacent to the park run by the Air Force. It's not as obnoxious as bubba's music, but just know it's there. And most of the time they just fly during the day.
You can walk to the lake and the swimming area near the dam. It's a day use area, so there's some folks that like to leave some trash, but you know… pick it up for them and carry on.
Now… when you leave there and head into the national refuge, that's where things get great. What a beautiful, unexpected landscape. The north side of the refuge has great hiking trails that are full of wildlife. The southwest side of course has the crystal digging area. It's really a great place to spend a weekend. Word to the wise, in the fairer months, get on and off the salt plains early to avoid the heat and the day trippers.
Overall, this is a serviceable campsite that can serve for a great launching point for exploring/hiking/birding in the refuge. The wildlife present is outstanding.
FYI… no, you can't fly your drone here. There is a national refuge, a state park and an Air Force base. It took me a long time to arrange all the clearances required, but my flight was legal.
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.
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.