Archive for the ‘Oklahoma’ Category

Dull Is Good

Chickasaw, located in south-central Oklahoma, is part of the transition zone between eastern woodlands and the great plains, and contains campgrounds, hiking trails, horse trails, and the large, artificial Lake of the Arbuckles. Like Catoctin Mountain, Chickasaw is sparse on natural wonders and unremarkable in flora and fauna, but it serves a purpose in providing recreation to the hard-working folks of Oklahoma.

Black Sulfur Springs Pavilion -- Public Domain Photo Courtesy of National Park ServiceIt does have some funky natural springs. There’s something exotic in the geology of the area that causes half a dozen or so natural springs of differing qualities. Some are infused with sulfur (hence the name of the nearby town of Sulphur) and are therefore highly poisonous. Others have similarly nasty high levels of arsenic, or high levels of copper, or are perfectly safe mineral springs. For amateur geologists in the audience, the place is pretty interesting for these features. The Chickasaw Nation Native Americans saw the value of these springs soon after they were relocated from Alabama & Mississippi, and preserved it for decades before deeding it to the National Park Service.

Chickasaw NRA was originally called Platt National Park, which brings up a different topic. If one looks at the range of spectacular sites called National Parks, from the Everglades to Yellowstone to the Gates of the Arctic, most of them have truly spectacular vistas, abundant & rare wildlife, or grand natural features. But some preserved sites in the NPS, like Chickasaw, Catoctin Mountain, Cuyahoga Valley, and others, aren’t particularly grand or exciting. I’m sure it begs the question: why are these lackluster sites part of the National Park Service?

Travertine Creek -- Public Domain Photo Courtesy of National Park ServiceIn my opinion, one of the big problems with this country is its evolution from the United States of America to the United States of Generica. From sea to shining sea, almost without fail, you’ll see the same strip malls, the same chain restaurants, the same big box retailers. Even regional slangs & accents are starting to disappear, thanks to mass media. It’s nice in one way, you can travel across this whole country without getting into serious cultural trouble. But it has also made the country less interesting, blander, more vanilla.

Unfortunately, in a world of cookie-cutter cul de sacs, abusive irrigation, strip mining, and invasive plant species, the nation’s natural diversity is also at risk of “genericization”. People tend to want to preserve grandiose vistas, but aren’t particularly interested in preserving boring things like hardwood forests, meandering rivers, or expansive grasslands. These things are boring, so, why bother, right? Well, all of these things help keep America beautiful, keep it from becoming one great swath of vanilla blandness.

It’s nice that the people of Oklahoma can experience a natural blend of eastern deciduous forest and prairie grassland at Chickasaw. It’s nice to see the people of Maryland can experience a natural mountain forest at Catoctin. It’s nice to see the people of Ohio can experience a natural river ecosystem. Yes, these things aren’t particularly interesting to tourists, but they keep the country from truly becoming the United States of Generica in a natural sense. These sites act as anchors to the world as it used to be, and provide the variety our country needs.

Sunset Over Lake of the Arbuckles -- Public Domain Photo Courtesy of National Park Service

[Sadly, I didn’t have a digital camera when I visited Chickasaw. Public domain photos courtesy of the National Park Service]


Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Chickasaw Indian Nation

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Google Map to Chickasaw

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