Put your shoes on and let’s get lost! Okay, so it’s actually less than a mile right off of a main highway, but is it ever worth a few hours or even a few days of your time. Natural Falls State Park, known by the locals as Dripping Springs, is home to one of the most spectacularly picturesque, diamond-in-the-rough places you’ll find near the border of Oklahoma.
This gorgeous 77-foot waterfall is located about 1/8 of a mile off of Highway 412W near West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Not only is it one of the two largest known in the state, but it’s awfully convenient — it’s less than an hour and a half from Tulsa Oklahoma about an hour from Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa and within minutes of the Cherokee Casino on the Arkansas/Oklahoma state line. It’s also less than an hour from some fascinating caves and the Wilderness Safari in Gentry, Arkansas (watch for my articles about them!)
On a recent trip back to Dripping Springs, the kids and I stopped in just barely before the park closed. After paying the $5 fee per vehicle to enter, (Yes, you read that right–only $5 per vehicle), we parked and took the more handicap accessible path, strolling down well-maintained wooden paths until we reached the balcony deck that overlooks the falls. The stunning, breathtaking nature made my soul pleasantly exhale. While my son is not fond of heights, even he braved out onto the platform for the view and a few photos.
We all took a moment just to admire the beauty in all the freshly blooming plant life that this protected and delicate ecosystem has to offer. As a protected ecosystem, there’s no swimming allowed in this stunning azure, but fishermen can enjoy catch and release fishing.
There’s a 47-step path down to the base of the waterfall, where you can sit on the deck and pretend you’re in a mystical forest scene of a fairy tale. Navigating down isn’t too hard – small children may need an adult’s helping hand- but it is steep coming back up. If you find yourself struggling, there’s a resting bench conveniently located off the path in a little nook. But that’s not it!
Hiking? Yes, I’m glad you asked! There are somewhere around 4.5 miles of hiking to explore, including the alternate route to the waterfall that goes up and down on the other side. Be careful though, these trails are sparsely marked and occasional hazards can include water running across the rocky bed or the possibilities that can arise if you run across wildlife. There’s so much to do that it’s completely understandable if you would need another day or so to take it all in.
Don’t feel obligated to leave the park, though, you can rent a yurt, set up a tent or park the RV/camper on the site’s level/ spacious campsites for a minimal fee. Tents space is $14; RV space with electric and water hookups are $22, add $3 for sewer and premium sites for just a few more dollars; and Yurt rentals are $100 per night. It wouldn’t be a family-friendly campground without amazing yurts that are available to rent for the night with usual expected amenities: There are on-site restrooms with showers to clean up before you choose your picnic table and grill. Grab the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. You know you’ll want one! (If not, holler and I’ll be glad to come help eat the S’mores. Just saying.) While you wait for the food to cook, does anyone want to play horseshoes? Volleyball? Disc golf? Or maybe just go to the playground? It’s your choice because this place has them all!
So, on the down low, many years ago I was actually married here. You can rent that particular large covered pavilion or the Red Fern Reunion Center.
If this doesn’t sound exciting – oh wait! Natural Falls State Park is the home to an even more famous event than most weddings. This location was used in the production of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” a 1974 movie based on the book about the tremendous love between a boy and his dogs, written by Wilson (“Woody”) Rawls.
This space is available to the public for group events! Whether you stop in for a quick view and photos, trek across the swinging bridge (it doesn’t swing anymore, which is good for me), hike for a few hours, camp or have a beautiful get together, this gem is a wonderful little adventure. It’s both pet (keep them on a leash) and family friendly.
Spoil yourself! Enjoy nature! Make some memories! Cross this one off your bucket list! And, of course, “leave it the way you found it.”