Back in May of 2009, Ed Godfrey, sports editor for the Daily Oklahoman penned an article about the four best outdoor towns in Oklahoma. Godfrey's article was in response to an article from Outdoor Life on the same subject. The folk at Outdoor Life picked their four towns based on socio-economic stuff such as available schools, median income, home values, and employment. Godfrey thought that the selection criteria should be based more on hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation resources... and so do I.
Although I like all of Godfrey's selections I think there are some towns that are simply quite better. Therefore, through the Prairie Ocean Journal, here are our four best outdoors towns in Oklahoma.
Number one has to be Broken Bow. Now Ed admitted he was somewhat bias in his selection of Eufala since that's where he's from and I'm also biased about my two selections in south-central Oklahoma. But, a spade is a spade and Broken Bow comes out on top in spite of my loyalties to other towns. Broken Bow is home to the Lower Mountain Fork river, the blue ribbon trout stream of Oklahoma. Also, Broken Bow Lake yielded the state record largemouth bass. The entire area around Broken Bow is absolutely beautiful and there are three Wildlife Management Areas with Little River, Honobia, and Three Rivers. When it comes to overall hunting, Broken Bow has to be near the top of the list with excellent deer, turkey, and waterfowl hunting. There are also a large number of ATV trails in the Quachita National Forest and within an hour of Broken Bow there are tremendous outdoor recreation opportunities available. What I like best about Broken Bow is how the community and surrounding area has shaped itself to accommodate the outdoorsman. The rustic and secluded cabin lodging around the Broken Bow area is very impressive.
Number two is Sulphur. Although I am somewhat bias, Sulphur can stand on it's own with the opportunities it has in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and Lake of the Arbuckles. As far as camping, there is no better place in Oklahoma than the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. And, the Lake of the Arbuckles is always at the top of the list as far as largemouth and smallmouth fishing and could very well yield a new state record. Several public hunting areas around Arbuckle also provides excellent hunting for deer, turkey, and there are good opportunities for waterfowl Within ten minutes of Sulphur, outdoor enthusiasts can be at Turner Falls, the number one outdoor recreation attraction in Oklahoma. Camping and fishing is available at Turner Falls and the Crossbar Ranch arm of Turner Falls offers ATV riding. For wildlife enthusiasts, bird watchers, and trail hikers, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is a mecca. Within thirty minutes of Sulphur, anglers can be on Lake Murray which is a great fishery of it's own. So, it's easy to see why Sulphur comes in at number two.
If Sulphur wants to move up to the number one spot then community leaders should focus on an increased outdoor gear retail presence. With the exception of one retailer, there is very little available as far as outdoor gear. The outdoor recreation retail industry has become very specialized over the years and there is good opportunity to make money retailing in this business. Over the years Sulphur has done an excellent job in catering to the outdoorsman, but the one lacking spot is lack of available outdoor gear selection.
Also, a more aggressive posture in promoting outdoor events such as more fishing tournaments, archery tournaments, Dutch oven cook-offs, or perhaps field trial competitions for the game bird enthusiasts, should be pursued.
The offering of outdoor skill classes through the community education program in Sulphur would be another good option. Classes would be basic such as Beginning Campfire Cooking, or Introduction To Fly-Fishing, or Basic Hunting Classes. By teaching people outdoor skills, we create ranks of outdoor enthusiasts for years to come, and generally the outdoor community promotes the towns they live in.
Number three is Tishomingo. Yeah, I'm really showing my bias now, but just like Sulphur, Tishomingo can stand on it's own. Tishomingo is home to Blue River, the number one winter trout fishery in Oklahoma. Blue River is not only a wonderful winter fishery but an excellent all around fishing offering spring, summer and fall fishing opportunities for native bass, pan fish, and catfish. Hunting is also available at Blue River and the entire Johnston County area has been known as the "Sportsman Paradise" for many years, with it's large deer population, turkey and waterfowl opportunities. In addition, Tishomingo is home to the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge and within that system is Cumberland Pool. Now Ed Godfrey touted Eufala as the best crappie fishery in Oklahoma and due to it's sheer size I can't argue that it's not. However, based on quality of crappie, size, and numbers surface acre to surface acre, I argue that Cumberland Pool is the best crappie fishery in Oklahoma. Besides, Cumberland Pool has the potential of giving up a new state record catfish at any given time. For the bird and wildlife enthusiast, this wildlife refuge is a Camelot since it serves as a resting home for migratory waterfowl.
What can Tishomingo do to climb the ladder to the number one spot? Cabins! Over a good number of years the number one request for information we get through the Prairie Ocean Journal is, "Where can I rent a cabin near Blue River?" Unfortunately, the presence of available rustic and secluded lodging is simply not available. The outdoor community prefers to lodge in the rustic confines of a cabin rather than a commercial lodging facility. There is tremendous potential in the development of cabins within close proximity of Blue River and such an under-taking will propel Tishomingo closer to the number one spot.
Number four has to be Durant. How can anyone argue with Lake Texoma, the most popular lake Oklahoma has to offer. Lake Texoma offers tremendous outdoor recreation in the form of camping, fishing, boating and water sports, wildlife, and hunting opportunities. The lodging available around Lake Texoma is tremendous and for those in the party who are not outdoor enthusiast, but come along for the trip, Durant offers a wide variety of "things to do".
Is there anything Durant can do to climb to number one? I think not... they've done it all and done a very good job at it. Durant and Lake Texoma's problem is it's popularity. Quite simply, sometimes bigger is not better. Many in the outdoor community go to the outdoors to get away, rather than go to the crowds and hustle and bustle. Lake Texoma and Durant will remain a most popular spot, but that in itself can prevent it from ever being the perfect outdoor town.