Platt National Park

Recently I had occasion to road trip from Austin, TX to Kansas City, MO, so I got out this 1974 National Geographic map to look for any interesting sites along the route. This map was preserved in a family map collection from a time when maps were rare and precious.

This caught my eye:

A national park I’d never heard of?

Turns out, Platt National Park lost its NP designation and was relegated to be part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

“It’s really different from the other national parks because it doesn’t have this grand scenery,” says Heidi Hohmann, a professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State University. She says Platt always struggled to stand out at the national level. Platt was the smallest national park. It had streams but no raging rivers. It had hills but no majestic mountains. And most of what you see today isn’t natural. During the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, carved trails and piped spring water to pavilions. Even the bison herd was transplanted.

Platt thrived in the 1950s as war-weary Americans flocked to leisure activities like boating and camping. But the conservation movement in the 1960s saw a push for more inspiring wilderness. In 1976, Platt was demoted. It was combined with a nearby reservoir and rebranded the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

from “In Oklahoma, A National Park That Got Demoted” by Joe Wertz for All Things Considered. Some Oklahomans I spoke with wondered if the the demotion may have been part of a larger reorganization of federal lands in that area, as Native people reclaimed more autonomy and control over public land management in eastern Oklahoma.

The park is quite nice, even late in the afternoon in the dead of winter, but I’d say if we’re being honest it’s more on the county or regional park level. It’d be a generous selection as even a state park.

The nearby town of Sulphur really does smell like sulphur.

I’d say superior sites of interest in Oklahoma for the casual tourist are the Oklahoma City Stockyards (cattle auctions Monday and Tuesday starting ~9am, Monday said to be better, on our particular Monday they were going through 15,000 head)

and the Golden Driller of Tulsa.



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