Over the summer I visited Beavers Bend State Park twice—once for a family trip and once for a girls’ trip. It’s a lovely place in Southeastern Oklahoma, located at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains and along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River.
If you want to get out in nature for a few days somewhere that’s an easy drive from Dallas (just over three hours), Beavers Bend is a great option.
Escape to Beavers Bend with the Family
“Oh, so this is what a forest is like.”
Our 3-year-old son had been asking to visit a “forest” for a while. From the moment we arrived at our cabin just outside Beavers Bend State Park, both he and our 2-year-old daughter fell in love with the place.
My brother and sister-in-law with their 1-year-old daughter joined us at Beavers Bend, as did my mom. With three young children in our group, the nap schedules kept at least some of us close to the cabin a lot of the time. The kids didn’t seem to mind. I think they would have been content simply exploring the wooded area immediately around our cabin, playing outside and collecting pine cones and interesting rocks. But we also found some great places and activities in and around the state park that everyone enjoyed.
Forest Heritage Center — Located inside the state park, it’s a nice place to spend an hour or so. The Center has a free museum that includes wood art that our kids loved (think lots of large, wooden animal sculptures). There is also a gift shop in the Center that is worth a visit. For more information, you can call (580) 494-6497.
Hiking — Just outside the Forest Heritage Center is a 1-mile looped “Tree Trail,” where our kids went on their first real hike. The trail cannot accommodate strollers and has a short but fairly steep climb at the beginning/end of the loop, but otherwise it’s a good option for younger kids as well as less experienced hikers. My husband and I carried our kids at times during the hike, but both kids also walked much of the trail themselves, especially our 3-year-old.
Approximately half of the trail follows along Beaver Creek, where our kids had a blast walking on the rocks in the creek and watching for minnows, tadpoles, and water striders.
The trail also takes you through lots and lots of trees (it is the “Tree Trail,” after all!), and we had fun trying to spot animal caves among the trees along the path.
Our kids were also constantly on the lookout for beavers—even though we learned during our trip that Beavers Bend State Park is named after a man called John Beavers, not the animals!
We enjoyed our “Tree Trail” hike so much that we completed the entire loop one day and then came back another day for a picnic by the creek.
If you have older kids or are otherwise interested in longer hikes, there are plenty of other hiking trails as well. You can get more information on hiking trails here.
Beavers Bend Depot — Also located inside the park, it’s another great place to go with young kids. Its big attraction is a 15-minute train ride through part of the state park.
We were advised to watch for white-tailed deer on the ride (and our kids were also watching for beavers, of course), but we saw mainly trees. Near the end of the ride was “Wahoo Hill”—not exactly a roller coaster, but our 3-year-old was holding on as if it were. Both of our kids loved the train ride.
The train runs twice per hour and costs $5.75 for adults and $5.00 for children 12 and under. While we were waiting for our train, the kids enjoyed ice cream cones at the Depot, and I had a really great funnel cake.
Beavers Bend Depot also has guided trail rides that last 45 minutes to an hour. My mom and sister-in-law, both experienced riders, went on a trail ride. They said the ride was slow and easy, and that it would be a good option for kids and inexperienced riders. (Experienced riders, however, may find it boring.) The cost is $29.50 per person, although children age 4 and younger may ride double with an adult for $14.75. Reservations are recommended, (580) 494-6613.
The Depot is closed Mondays. For other information including hours, you can call the same number, (580) 494-6613.
Finally, our kids loved this playground, located just across the road from the Depot:
Swim Beach — Our kids also had fun playing at a swim beach inside the park. The water was a bit cool even in July, but the kids enjoyed getting their feet wet and throwing rocks into the water.
I definitely suggest bringing shoes to wear in the water.
We didn’t try the nearby Paddle Boats or Miniature Golf, but I hope to on our next visit. For more information about these activities, you can call (580) 494-6512.
Where to Eat for Any Occasion
Some of our best meals in Beavers Bend were ones that we cooked at our own cabin! I brought a few cooking supplies from home, but we found everything else we needed at Broken Bow’s single grocery store, Pruett’s Food, 201 S. Park Drive, which is a 15-minute drive from the state park.
Grateful Head Pizza is my favorite restaurant in the area for adults and kids alike. The pizza is great, and they have take-out available. 10251 N. Hwy 259, (580) 494-6030.
Abendigo’s Grill & Patio (closed Sundays and Mondays) is the most upscale restaurant in the area. I went there twice and had very slow service both times. The waiting made it difficult with the kids (and the kids’ menu is a bit pricey—$7.99 for mac & cheese). But it was fun with the girls. If you go, try the Sicilian Nachos. And if you want to drink wine, you have to bring it yourself (and pay $5 for a membership). 259 Stevens Gap Rd, (580) 494-7222.
The Blue Rooster has awesome fried yellow squash like my mom and grandma used to make when I was a kid. The fried catfish is good, too. But be warned that almost everything on the menu is fried. If you’re with a group and can order family style, you can get a lot of food for your money. US Hwy 259 (next to Grateful Head Pizza), (580) 494-6361.
Steven’s Gap Restaurant is known for having excellent fried catfish, but I haven’t been there yet. 9955 N. US Hwy 259, (580) 494-6350.
Beaver’s Bend Restaurant is the restaurant located within the state park. I haven’t had a chance to try it either, but it’s supposed to be a great place for breakfast (opens at 8 a.m.) and has a nice view of the Mountain Fork River. (580) 494-6551.
Where to Stay
Beavers Bend has many beautiful cabins in wooded areas close to the state park that can be rented through various management companies. If you’re traveling with a group, you can rent a large cabin or two or more smaller cabins that are near each other.
Our best cabin-rental experience this summer was with Beavers Bend Getaways, (580) 494-6116. I’ve also heard good things about Beavers Bend Creative Escapes, (580) 306-2265—although I haven’t had any personal experience with that company yet.
And of course, there are also smaller cabins available within the park, along with RV and tent camping, as well as Lakeview Lodge.
Finally, if you care about staying connected while you’re in Beavers Bend, I highly recommend finding a cabin with wireless Internet. Your ability to make cell phone calls may be spotty, and your ability to receive emails and text messages may be even worse. And you can forget about connecting to the Internet while you’re there without Wi-Fi.
For another mom’s perspective on Beavers Bend, you can read Jennifer’s DMB post from October 2012 here.