Donny S.

Pro

Tulsa, OK

Joined May 2020

Husband to a prissy wife, father to 3 boys that are as wild as their old man, and generally down for any kind of outdoor adventure. The wilderness must be explored!

Great for Hikers and View Seekers

While in college, and subsequent thereto, I frequently visited Sugar Loaf Mountain for day hikes. The locations and names of “parks” are confusing on Dyrt so I would note that the camping area is called Sugar Loaf Park. I think this is a beautiful area of the state and the mountain is located W-NW Greers Ferry Lake and Dam. There is a $5 day entry fee if you drive in and $2 for walk in. The camp sites are $16 (no hookups) & $18 (30/20 amp) per night. Overnight camping is only allowed mid-May through mid-September but is otherwise available for day use year around. I personally think this is the preferred camping area around Greers Ferry Lake bc of the hiking and views, which I am more into. If that is your thing, Sugar Loaf is a solid spot for you to visit. Plenty to do and see within a 10-15 mile radius that can keep you busy for several days. Would recommend.

Beautiful but crowded!!!

I should start by saying we went to the park on Mother’s Day weekend. This may have, and probably did impact the crowd. However, the number of people makes me think it is like this on most weekends. I asked a park ranger and they indicated it’s very busy on the weekend. Due to the parks proximity to AR and OKlahoma (literally almost on the border), it is a high day use park. The actual camping areas are really nice. I’d break it down like this: if I’m a tent, the sites are great all around. If you’ve got a camper like me, the rv sites are real close together. I shared a video explaining my top choice. I’d choose site 4 bc it backs up to the playground, lots of green space around, and short walking distance to bathhouse. If I were going with another family, as my brother and I often do, I’d go with sites 5&6. They are in a corner, also back up to playground, lots of green, and short walking distance from bathhouse. One draw back is there is only one bathhouse for all campers. This is a big drawback for me. With the number of sites and the number of people who visit, this sort of grossed me out just thinking about it. I took pics of the inside of the men’s showers. They looked ok, not great. If you’re counting on using the bathhouse, I don’t know about this park. The pros of the park are many. It’s beautiful. Lots of great trails with a good mix of easy-difficult. The signature water fall trail is beautiful. The park has a disc golf course that’s really nice and well maintained. Lots of picnic tables, grills, etc around. Nice playground, beach volleyball, and horse shoes, all near both the tent and rv sites. There’s also a huge green space/field of sorts for throwing a frisbee, soccer, etc which isn’t altogether common in parks. Overall, it’s a great little park, but I’m giving it 3 stars bc of the sheer volume of people you have to deal with and the bathhouse issue. These issues alone will keep me from ever camping there unless I go during the week.

Great Family Spot

I often distinguish in my reviews the places I find preferable for families and those I think are better for people with no kids. I didn’t think about this until I started camping with my 3 boys, all currently under 4. Greers Ferry Lake is one of those places. However, as I said in a review of “Heber Springs,” if I’m reviewing campgrounds here, it isn’t accurate to review “Greers Ferry Lake.” Instead, you would probably be camping at Devil’s Fork Rec Area, Dam Site Rec Area & Campground, Sugar Loaf Campground (in Higden, AR), or Cove Creek Rec Area & Campground (in Quitman, AR). I’ll review those separately; reviewing “Greers Ferry Lake” for prospective campers isn’t all that helpful, in my view.
Despite that, I’ll just say that I love the town of Heber Springs which is located on the Lake. It may be because I have so many memories in Heber from my time in college so I should drop that disclaimer. I also love Sugar Loaf; there’s some great hiking and views. As for Greers Ferry generally, the lake is north of the dam on the Little Red River. There is a ton to do on the lake from fishing, boating/skiing, swimming, etc and it’s a very, very clean lake. The Dam Site Marina has boat rentals, tackle, etc and it’s really nice. For anyone who likes to or is planning on doing a lot of water activities on their trip, the [area around Greers Ferry Lake] is definitely a great spot for anyone wanting to camp with a family due to the lake’s proximity to civilization (ie WalMart) if you need it, activities, amenities, and cleanliness. Plan a trip.

Beautiful All Year - Can’t Miss

I spent many years in Arkansas while completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and I frequently visit as I live in NE Oklahoma. Heber, as we called it, was only about 40 minutes from the university and it was a frequent hot spot for all of us in the spring and fall. It isn’t all that accurate to say “Heber” is the location for camping. Instead, Heber is a small community about 60 miles north of Little Rock on Greers Ferry Lake. The lake is NW of the Little Red River Dam, which is likewise NW of Sugar Loaf Mt (also a great place for hiking). There are several campgrounds all around the lake, but one of the most popular is the Dam Site Campground. I say that to say, since this is a site for campground reviews, any “review” of camping at Heber Springs isn’t accurate. Instead you want to look for reviews on the Dam Site Campground, the Narrows, Cove Creek or the Red River Trout Dock. Nevertheless, I have tons of memories at Heber and the way I describe it to people is this: it looks like God stepped on a mountain, leaving a huge foot print, then filled it with water. Since the lake “shore” is largely straight rock face, this is the best way I can describe it. The water is beautiful. There is tremendous fishing and floating just below the dam on the Red River. It’s absolutely worth a trip - hands down. It’s also a place where you could plan a week long trip. Plenty to do, see, eat, etc. If you care, I think it may be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in the fall. So to me, I’d go in the fall or late spring. Lastly, and my favorite, since there are cliffs everywhere around the lake, one of the favorite past times of students is to cliff jump. There are cliffs of various heights all around the lake, but there is one in particular that’s right at or just over 100 ft. It’s a right of passage at the university I attended. Fun times. Go; it won’t disappoint

Cool Sites-Ok Camping

I completed my undergrad and graduate degrees in Arkansas about 30ish miles north of Little Rock. While living in Arkansas, my brother and I traveled all over the state, including a visit to the Blanchard Springs Caverns and recreation area. Hiking through the caverns and around the recreation area is phenomenal. The caverns make you feel like you’re looking at something made my aliens. It’s really pretty amazing. It’s also enormous inside the cave. For us, it was a day trip excursion. However, we did explore all around the recreation and campground area. I’ve camped all over Arkansas and what I’d say is that this is probably a great place for primitive tent camping and/or backpack/hammock camping. I have three small boys and it wouldn’t be my first choice for a family camping trip, albeit very very cool. The campground is small, maybe 30 or so spots and heavily wooded. The terrain isn’t conducive to kids unless you’re ok constantly being concerned about injuries. There are lots of cool swimming holes, moving water and falls nearby with it’s close proximity to Mirror Lake and Sugar Loaf Mt. definitely worth a trip if you’re close by, but not something I’d make a multi-hour trip for. Also wouldn’t stay there more than maybe two nights. I’d say if you’re camping somewhere relatively close, work in a day trip to Blanchard Springs. If you are like me and have kids, and you’d have to travel anything beyond an hour or two to get there, it’s not worth it. There are too many beautiful places in AR and you’d probably drive by more than one of them to get to Blanchard Springs. I’m giving it 3 stars for that reason alone. If I were rating based solely on the sites, activities, etc. I’d give it 5.

Views, Views, & More Views!

I went to Mt Magazine in the fall and it is truly a spectacular park.   For anyone with kids, I would say at the outset that this isn't a very kid-friendly park. No playgrounds, very, very mountainous, and generally just not a park for kids.  With that said, if you're a hiker, photographer or someone who can't wait to chase down the spectacular view, this park is for you.   Also, Magazine is one of the few parks that offers climbers great opportunities to work their skills.  The park essentially sits on top of a bluff that is nearly surrounded on all sides by straight rock face.  There is ample opportunity for anyone into repelling or climbing to indulge themselves.  

Magazine is one of the smallest parks I've been to.  There aren't many camping sites at all. Each site is large and the camping area is spread out quite a bit.  It's a great place to achieve some seclusion.  To that end, there ins't much at the park.  It's definitely a place where you need to pack well and plan to cook.  It isn't easy to get anywhere at all.  That's particular true if you don't have a vehicle that handles elevation well.  Further, due to the elevation and drastic temperature change from the base of the mountain and the campground, it frankly isn't safe at all to drive on the mountain in the early morning or evening.  I've included a picture to give you an idea of the type of fog I had to drive through on my way to the campsite at about 11:30 in the morning.  One evening on our trip, we were stupid enough to attempt the trek at night and I seriously couldn't see 1 foot in front of my truck.  My advice, stay on the mountain.  The campground is like most Arkansas parks.  It's very well kept and clean and the bath house was very nice as far as state parks go.  You can't go wrong.  

Apart from the campsites, I would add another note for anyone with a spouse like mine who would prefer to stay in places that look like ski lodges instead of our PUP.  This place fits the bill and some.  The lodge on top of the mountain is spectacular and looks like something you would see in the mountains of Colorado.  During our trip, my brother and I ate dinner one night at the lodge and went with the surf and turf buffet - good choice, Donny; very good choice.  There's also a bar in the lodge, among other things.  The view off the back porch of the lodge is one of the best I've seen save for maybe Petit Jean.  Apparently Mt Nebo is better but I haven't been yet.  I am going this fall so I may have to update this post if it is.  Either way, the back porch of the Lodge is equipped with several large rocking chairs and it is definitely a place to catch up on some tranquility and peaceful gazing.  Most of the rooms in the lodge have private balconies that look out over the mountain as well.  If your significant other isn't a "camper," they will definitely be pleased with the accommodations at the lodge. 

Overall, if you want a place to escape for a weekend and get the feel of a high-end ski lodge for half the cost, this is your place.  It's essentially camping in the heavens with the spectacular views and sunsets from all angles.  The only thing I would add as a last note of advice is this: the temperature is literally about 10-15 degrees cooler on the mountain than below.  One night we were there it got down to mid teens.  So unless you're going in July, I would recommend you pack a pair of pants, long sleeves and maybe even a light jacket.  You will probably be cold otherwise.

Probably Best in Ok

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.

Just Think: "A River Runs Through It"

First off, I don't know what is going on with this site but holy cow, let's get the name of the State Park correct - its the Bull Shoal-White River State Park.  Not plural Shoals.  

With that cleared up, this is a gem of a park that follows along the White River just south of the Bull Shoals Dam.  You will pass the visitor center on the north side of the dam, go over it, and down into the park.  Definitely stop at the visitor center.  It's one of the best I've been to in Arkansas.  

As the titled to my review indicated, this park is like watching the flyfishing scenes from the movie A River Runs Through It over and over (if you're lost, just Google images from the movie).  The park is so picturesque that at times it seems like it can't be real.  There is dense fog in the early morning because the water in the river stays about 40 degrees even in the heat of the summer.   You can access the water from any site along the river as the terrain is sort of a gentle slope from each site down to the river.  However, on the west side of the river, it is basically straight rock face, where the river has carved out its path in a mountain through the years.   

The park is relatively small but the camp sites are large.  The rv sites along the river are very large.  Some have sewer, some don't; all have water/power.  The marina and bait shop is in the center of the park.  The tent and smaller pad sites are further from the river, but quite nice.  The bath houses shine at this park. They are super clean, large and private.  It is a "family-style" bathhouse with 4 separate and large bathrooms, all of which have a toilet, sink, mirror and outlet.  I have only visited this park with my brother, but as a father of 3 little ones, I can say it would be very easy to get your kids clean in these bathrooms without feeling rushed.  Each shower room has a separate door and locks.  You can take as long as you need.  

As for the campground, I'll just start with the fishing since most of the visitors to this park come for that reason alone.  This is obviously a fishermen's paradise.  Trout fishing galore all year.  We fished the river along the campground and we also went on a guided fishing trip.  Piece of advice, pay the money and take a guided trip if you go to Bull Shoals.  You'll catch more fish than you can keep and you'll have a blast.  Unless you're literally a borderline professional angler, you won't have any luck without a guide.  We ourselves had almost no luck fishing from the bank and/or in waders, and we watched many a dejected fishermen walk back to their site after appearing so hopeful when heading to the water.  

The reason you need to pony up for a guide is because - literally - from sun up to sun down, there are fishing boats going up and down the river.  The White River flows north through the park and toward the dam.  Guide services launch by either the dam or from the marina that is located approximately right in the middle of the park.  You can also rent a boat from the marina if you don't want to pay for a guide.  The guide services carry fisherman south on the river right through the park (usually on the eastern side of the river closest to the camp sites) and they go as far south as they can before they cut the engine and float down the western side of the river in the deeper water.  So, like I said, if you are hoping to stand in waist deep water and fish the bank, it's impossible to do so.  There is a boat motoring right through your fishing spot about every fifteen minutes.  When the guide service has floated as far north as they can, they turn their engines back on and speed back south down the river to take their place back in the line of floating boats that go all day every day.   We ended up traveling south of the park towards Cotter, AR to Hurst Fishing Service (http://www.hurstdock.net/).  We had a guide named Pete and he was fantastic.  For me and my brother, it ended up being about $450, and we spent about 4 1/2 hours out on the boat.  They provided poles, tackle, baited hooks, and a cooler full of drinks.  Pete also cleaned our trout for us.  We caught more fish than we could keep (see my pictures).  It was an absolute blast.  Without a guide, we wouldn't have caught anything absent blind luck.  Pete put us right on top of fish, told us what to do, and we caught fish after fish, after fish, after fish.  That's how every fishing trip should go - more catching than fishing.  Highly recommend Hurst. 

Beyond the fishing, the park is great for any kind of relaxing getaway.  The constant noise of running water is unbelievably calming and, in fact, my brother gave me a hard time for sleeping about 3 hours in the hammock one day.  It was amazing.  There is a nice playground on the eastern side of the park away from the water, as well as a huge pavilion.  There's also a basketball court.  We were there in April so it wasn't too warm yet, but if you went with the intention of swimming in the river, I'm not sure how much you'd enjoy it.  The temp of the water is very cold year around.  Also, there are so many boats going up and down the river, I would be very, very nervous about any kids getting out in the river to swim.  

One side note: when we camped at Bull Shoals, we ended up booking two sites even though we only used 1 pop up camper.  We were in sites 42 & 43.  The reason we did this is because they are directly across the street from the bath house, and because the sides are literally side by side - they share the same pad.  We didn't want to be right next to another RV (literally maybe 2 feet away), so we just booked both sites.  Doing this made for a HUGE! campsite area.  For the price, if you have a family, I think it is absolutely the way to go.  The sites on both sides of 42 and 43 are fairly far away so you end up having a huge area to yourself if you get both sites.  I would recommend doing this for anyone camping with kids, but I'd say the same even if you had a group of 6 adults.  Just gives you tons of room to spread out, set up tables, chairs, etc. without feeling like other campers are on top of you.  Thats particularly true at this park because the sites are generally close together as they are set up diagonally along the river.  Just look at the campground map when you book online through the Arkansas State Parks site (https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/bull-shoals-white-river-state-park). 

Lastly, in the event you have kids, which often requires a midtrip walmart run, you should know that this park isn't close to anything.  The nearest walmart is in Flippin, Arkansas and it takes about 35 minutes to get there so it's a solid hour for a round trip to and from.  I know from personal experience because we noticed that one of the tires on my brother's camper had a big bulge in it and we had to go to walmart to buy a new trailer tire.  When we got back, we realized we didn't have the right size and had to go back to walmart to get the correct size.  It ended up taking up about 4 hours of our last night on the trip.  Yikes!!  In other words, if you go to Bull Shoals, make sure you pull a santa and check your list twice, maybe a third time, and over pack everything.  To that end, make sure to bring pants and a coat even if you go in the summer.  The temps fluctuate about 20 degrees in the morning and evening because of the temperature of the river.  You'll be cold at night without a jacket and pants.

Overall, I'd just say that as soon as we arrived and got the camper set up, my brother and I took in the view for a minute, looked at each other and said almost simultaneously: "We're gonna have to come back here again."  We held the same sentiment on our last day as we drove our separate ways.  This Park is yet another can't miss in Arkansas and I promise you, the Natural State will not disappoint.

Does Not Exist - Don’t read “reviews”

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.

Calling all golfers, boaters & fishermen

(See below for my updates) Great park for anyone wanting to catch a round of golf while camping. Sequoyah is very near Tahlequah, Oklahoma so there’s easy access to food and other shopping needs on a trip. The main pro for Sequoyah is the golf course, which large flows along the shore line of Fort Gibson Lake, over 19,000 acres of water. The course is really well maintained for a state park; however, you should be aware that during a recent trip to another OK state park, I played a round of golf and was told by the course pro that Sequoyah is turning their 18 hole course into a 9 hole course bc the campground is so frequently flooded. To that end, you should definitely pay attention to local rainfall levels prior to visiting Sequoyah if your planning a trip. There are several separate camping areas, all of which are named after a particular Native tribe such as “Seminole area.” Some areas are more prone than others to flooding so you should check with the park before going bc you may very well be limited in what you’re able to do or access if there has been local flooding. Beyond the golf course, the other obvious benefit of this park is Fort Gibson Lake, which is stunning. It’s a paradise for fishermen and boaters. For non water sport enthusiast, there is some great hiking at the park, as well as the Three Forks Nature Center, which my kids loved. The camp sites along the lake are generally for tent campers, but regardless, there is tons of sandy shoreline for swimming and playing in the water. Really pretty area of the park. There’s also a few beach volleyball courts and disc golf, which is a personal fav of mine. Lastly, for anyone not wanting to “camp,” have no fear! The “Lodge at Sequoyah State Park” is very, very, VERY nice and the rooms are reasonably priced for what you get. It was completely renovated recently and now very much looks like something you would expect out of a premier hotel or resort, not a state park. If you have a significant other who suffers through your love of the outdoors, they will LOVE this place and likely ask you when you’d like to return as soon as they arrive.  My wife loves me enough to go camping in our PopUp, but when she learned about the Lodge, that was it no sleeping the popup on this trip.  The room was unreal (see pics). We definitely felt like we were at a luxury resort, not camping.  So to the extent that may bother you, don't stay in the Lodge.  The Lodge is located directly on the water and it has tremendous views of the lake and sunset.  It is also located in close proximity to the volleyball courts and beach area along the lakeshore, which has day use picnic tables everywhere. I should also mention that there is a superb restaurant in the Lodge as well, which I always make note of due to the ease of having at least one meal prepared for us instead of cooking at the campsite while trying to wrangle 3 boys under 4.  Overall, I feel confident in saying that Sequoyah is probably one of Oklahoma’s better parks due to the activities and amenities it offers, the scenery and proximity to a “town” in the event you need something during your trip. We will definitely be going back, whether I want to or not.  My wife is sold! (Updated review) I have since been back to Sequoyah and I decided to upgrade the park to 5 stars. It’s just a beautiful, great park. Tons to do, accommodations for all preferences, swimming, boating, golf, disc golf, horseback riding, boating, fishing, great trails, HUGE park, tons of sites, lots of trees, tons of green space in camping areas, [now has renovated] camping sites for all preferences/sizes of campers, trailers, hookups, etc. (see video). Above all, for anyone in Tulsa or surrounding area (the second most populated city in OK by far), the park is 30 minutes SE. Its also like 15 minutes from Wagoner or Hulbert, in both of which you can easily find food options, groceries, etc if needed. For anyone with or without kids, Sequoyah is a cant miss in this area of the world. I want to check out Sequoyah Bay Park, which is across the lake in a SW’ly direction. I plan to camp at Sequoyah in two weeks so I will drive over to Sequoyah Bay and snag some video/pics for anyone needing more info. Overall, great park with literally everything you could want in a state park.

Quick update: I just camped at this park (June 2020) and it was one of the hottest weekends we’ve had in almost a year. One of the things I wanted to note was shaded campsites. In the Seminole loop (best in park), site 8 is one of the hottest in the park. It gets sun from about 10am to 5pm. There are no trees south of this site so it’s very hot. If you need relief from sun, site 22 is the bomb. Shades all day. Also, site 9 isn’t bad, but it gets a lot of sun in the late afternoon. So I think of all the sites, for temp considerations, site 22 is the way to go. Happy camping!

Solid Weekend Getaway

I visited Greenleaf for a short trip in the fall with my oldest son. It was a short overnight excursion so I would add a caveat that we didn’t get to do much in the park. With that said, it’s a solid little park. There’s a miniature golf course, though it isn’t well kept. The sites at the entry to the park are pretty large with water and power. Some have sewer as well. The nicer camping area is near the lake, which is very nice and the views are great. I reserved my spot at the last minute so I was not able to get a spot by the lake. It’s a great park for anyone wanting to do a lot of fishing or boating. There are two playgrounds; the one at the front of the park where we stayed is dated and frankly not very good. However, the one near the lake is much better. The bathhouses were better than most in Oklahoma and they are a single large bathroom with a toilet and shower head. This was perfect for us bc it was easy to bath my son without worrying he would be encroaching on anyone’s space. There is also a kid fishing pond which my son did well in. There’s a lot of catfish in the pond. The only negative I could add, if it is negative, would be that this is a heavily trafficked hunting campground. The woodlands surrounding the park are used by hunters all fall. While we were camping almost every site was occupied by hunters. They would all leave early in the morning which was kind of annoying, but it made the park virtually empty from the time we woke up until late in the afternoon when they all start to return. Don’t be surprised if you visit in the fall and you’re the only one not wearing camo and hunter’s orange. Also, for anyone wanting to group camp at Greenleaf, there’s a great building available to reserve at the back of the loop in the entrance to the park that is across from the bathhouse and playground. It is completely enclosed, has a/c, large fridge, sink and microwave. While we were there, several groups of hunters had reserved this to muse as sort of a home base where they kept food and other things of that nature. They had set up several folding tables and chairs and I assume they used it as a place to gather for meals. It’s a great spot for anyone wanting to camp with a large family, church group or just a multi family trip. And to that end, the sites at Greenleaf are arranged in such a way that it is a great park for multiple families to camp together, with lots of shared/communal green space for activities. That’s particular true in the loop closest to the entrance where we stayed. Lastly, during our trip, there was a lot of construction going on as they are completely remodeling the visitor center, which looked like it will be quite big. I don’t know what will be included in the new building, but whatever it is will likely enhance your experience. I would add though that it was clearly in the early stages of construction so you may want to call ahead and check the status, as the construction work and equipment was really loud. Overall, it’s a nice, tranquil park with some great views. There isn’t a ton to do at the park beyond typical campground activities unless your planning to use the lake for fishing and boating. Hiking trails are short and easy in difficulty. I enjoyed our stay and will probably go back bc my son loved the kid fishing pond and miniature golf course on site. I’m giving it 3 stars bc they need to update the playground and generally give the park a bit of a facelift.

Boater’s Park

Tenkiller is a nice little park for camping, but it is a great park for boating and fishermen. The park is very large and spread out over a large area along the shore of Tenkiller Ferry Lake. The lake is beautiful and it is a very popular lake for scuba diving due to the clear water and frequent certification classes given there. The marina is extremely large as many locals from the Tulsa area visit the lake on the weekend. The park itself leaves much to be desired. It is overgrown, and generally appears somewhat neglected. However, in fairness, we visited during the COVID crisis and most everything was not accessible. I have been told by many that the nature and cultural center on site are great. From what I could see, the pool area also looks very nice. There is a disc golf course on site, which I wish was more common than it is. The camping at the park is primarily geared toward tent campers, and the premier Lakeview sites are all reserved for tent campers. The rv sites are generally within three areas, Blue Jay Knob, Shady Grove, and Fox Squirrel. While it is nice and there is sewer in Fox Squirrel loop, it is wide open and minimal trees. It is also furthest away from the lake. We stayed in Shady grove (#84) and I believe it is either the best or one of the top 3 sites in the whole park. With that said, I also like the Blue Jay Knob area as well bc it is elevated above the lake, the views are fantastic and the sites seem to have more green space for kids. The bathhouse in that area is also preferable to others. The cell service was great and there is WiFi at the nature center. Also noteworthy is the fact there is a great restaurant at the marina in the heart of the park and another (Big Daddy’s right on the Dam Highway) right at the entrance to the park. The bait and tackle shop at the marina is also fantastic. Overall, it’s a nice little park for weekend camping, but a phenomenal park for a fisherman or anyone wanting to be on the water for several days. Despite the beautiful water and scenery, I wouldn’t want to plan a trip that was longer than a few nights. Its definitely not the best place I’ve camped, but it’s a solid park

The Standard

As the oldest State Park in The Natural State, in my opinion, Petit Jean sets the standard to which other parks should aspire. We frequently visit Petit Jean every year (2-3 times) and often joke that it serves as “home base” for our camping adventures. It’s just that good. If we’re unsure about where to head next, we always fall back on Petit Jean. By analogy, I view Petit Jean like a PB&J or a grilled cheese. Both are solid options every time, and you can’t go wrong with either. The same is true of Petit Jean. The campgrounds are generally clean and well kept. I also really like the spacing of the sites, as sometimes the sites in state parks make you feel like you’re right on top of your neighbor. Loop A is typically filled with larger campers, as those sites have sewer, and those sites are generally much larger than other areas. Since we have a PUP, I personally prefer Loops B or C. I have camped in D but it is the oldest camping area in the park and it shows. The bathhouse in that area isn’t as nice. Conversely, the bathhouses in Loops B and C are great. Even if the only site available is in D, I’d say it’s still absolutely worth going. The bathhouses are nice and clean, the amenities are numerous, and the scenery is unbelievable. The trails are fantastic, playground is great, and the food at the Lodge is phenomenal. We make it a point to eat in the Lodge at least one night of any trip. However, I would add, there is also a breakfast buffet in the mornings that’s a can’t miss for the price and convenience. Essentially, it is unequivocally the perfect park for a family with kids. However, it’s also perfect for anyone who may think they may want to go camping. In fact, even the most experienced camper would love this park and what it offers. It’s an absolute can’t miss and anyone debating whether they should go should pull the trigger immediately! (NOTE: I would note that you should be aware of a HUGE car show that occurs in the park every Fathers Day weekend. It is absolutely packed and unbelievably loud with old cars and motorcycles. If you go on Fathers Day weekend, do not expect any peace and tranquility whatsoever - you won’t find it.).

Quiet, Secluded Gem!

This park is a small, secluded gem in northwest AR right on Lake Fort Smith, about 30 miles NE of Fort Smith proper. The campground is practically brand new due to a flood a few years ago which caused the state to relocate the campground. The bathhouses are unbelievable (generally true of all AR parks), sites are immaculate, and views are amazing. The visitor center is also unbelievable. Our boys got to feed the snakes and turtles when we last visited. The park is small and there aren’t many sites. I found this to be a positive as you actually get the feeling you’re alone in nature. To that end, the only negative thing I can say about this park is that almost every site is elevated and has multiple levels due to retaining walls that were used to build up each site in the side of the mountain along the lake. The ledges of these retaining walls do not have any railing. So for us, having 3 small boys, this just meant toms of opportunities for them to fall and get hurt. Some of the drops from one level To the next were 6 ft or higher. This is the only reason I’m not giving the park 5 stars (though in fairness, I probably should). Beyond that small issue, however, the Park is absolutely gorgeous. The pool and splash pad are also very nice, though we weren’t able to use them because we went in January. There is a grill that serves food in the pool area which I think is really convenient. The playground is also nice, as is the marina and rental prices are very low, in my opinion. Also, I did not use them, but there are quite a few mountain bikers who visit this park and the trails were clearly well kept. In sum, beyond the beautiful scenery, the Park is generally very clean and new feeling. There’s not much I can say that would be negative at all. In my opinion, it’s a cant miss Park for anyone who enjoys camping.