The winter months have passed quickly and memories of frigid air, snow and ice are slowly melting away. If you're counting the days until you emerge from your self-induced hibernation, mark a big X on your calendar for March 20. The vernal equinox; the official first day of spring.
But don't think you have to wait for a specific day on the calendar to enjoy this picturesque panorama. Your escape to nature can begin today at an Oklahoma State park.
Even though the parks have been open and available throughout the winter season, some campgrounds were temporarily closed for winterization. Most campgrounds are now open for visitors and entertainment venues will be available at some parks.
One all-weather sport is becoming a popular attraction. The disc golf courses at Lake Eufaula, Sequoyah and Natural Falls state parks expect their player numbers to rise as the temperatures climb. Natural Falls and Sequoyah each offer 18 holes and Eufaula offers a nine-hole course with diverse play areas.
At Arrowhead State Park on Lake Eufaula, Manager Jim Ramsey is ready for guests, noting that all campgrounds will be open.
“Bring your horse and check out the riding trails that have been cleaned and the new signage that has been posted along the trails. The stables and marina will also be open and the golf course is ready to go,” he said.
Diane Rutland, front desk manager at Greenleaf State Park, is excited about the opportunities offered for their spring break crowds.
“In addition to fishing, which is always a popular sport, we have paved trails for hiking, biking and skating,” Rutland said. “The marina will be open with kayak, pedal boat and canoe rentals, and we'll have free miniature golf for all park guests. ... And don't forget your binoculars and camera, especially for bird watching and capturing pictures of the deer and other wildlife that roam in the park.”
Not all visitors to the state parks have experienced tent camping or spending time outdoors, and that's perfectly fine with Merle Cox, manager at Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton.
“This year, we're hosting a session for first-time campers. Our intent is to introduce guests to the outdoors to spark their interest and hopefully gain a fan for life,” she said.
The Camping 101 program at Robbers Cave is intended for those who are unfamiliar with sleeping under the stars.
“We supply a set of gear that includes a tent, air mattresses, a lantern, a two-burner cook stove and camp chairs. You will be asked to bring food, sleeping bags, toiletries and other items that are detailed on a checklist,” Cox said. “Our naturalist or a park ranger will guide you to a tent site at a campground and help set up your camp. We'll spend time with you and give you a short orientation about things such as starting a campfire and the sights and sounds of the nighttime forest. For the remainder of the day and evening until the next morning, we'll leave you to enjoy the experience on your own.”
The cost for this unique program is $25 per night for a family of up to eight members and reservations are required. For information about the program, call (918) 465-2565.
The Nature Center at Robbers Cave will host spring break activities in addition to cave tours, nature hikes and hay rides. Concessions include pedal boats, miniature golf and the riding stables.
Don't let a slight chill in the air keep you from breaking out of your winter doldrums. Spring into action and make your way to an Oklahoma State Park.
For information about spring break activities at all of the Oklahoma State Parks, Lodges or Golf Courses, visit TravelOK.com. Keli Clark is marketing coordinator for Oklahoma State Parks.