Turner Falls, the largest waterfall in Oklahoma, is a sight worth seeing. Nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains and in the midst of a large wind farm, it is a great place to camp, hike, and swim. The falls are formed as Honey Creek flows down hill over the rocky terrain. In addition to the main falls, there are many other smaller cascades.
There are a few downfalls to Turner Falls. The first being that it is an older park and many “improvements” were made in earlier times. Today, most parks try to keep things as natural as possible but it used to be that people thought nature needed a little help. Because of this, Turner Falls is far from an untouched natural area. From concrete reinforcements of some smaller falls, to water slides built into the natural pools, complete with pool ladders to help you exit, man’s thumbprint is everywhere. Depending on your taste for this, it can be hard to enjoy the beauty of the falls when it is juxtaposed with man-made creations.
Another downfall is the price of admission which you have to pay in addition to your camping fee. They charge per person, and with fees of $12 per adult, and $6 per child, during the high season, it can be a very expensive visit. You can save a little money going in the off season (October-April) when admission drops to $4 per person. If you go in early October it might even still be warm enough to swim.
Lastly, it is located only a couple of miles from the highway. While this does make it easy to get to, it also means you can hear the highway noise through most of the park.
Just two hours north of DFW, Turner Falls is an excellent option for a quick weekend trip. It is located just a few miles off of I-35W making it simple to get there. It’s so simple that you probably won’t even need your cell phone’s GPS guidance. However, if you do you will have a phone signal the whole way.
Turner Falls offers every type of camping from cabin “camping” all the way down to primitive sites.
The cabins are large efficiencies with the bare bones needed to qualify as a cabin. The kitchen is made up of a sink, two stove burners, a microwave, and a coffee pot. There are two full size beds per unit and they do provide the linens. For $150 per night, you aren’t getting much, but if you require indoor plumbing and climate control this is the place for you. The cabins do include park admission however, so you will save a little there. They are located on a side street along a side branch of Honey Creek and so are a bit tucked away from the noise of the rest of the park.
The RV camping area is a bit of a glorified parking lot. If you are right at the front of it you have a little bit of a view of the hillsides and some windmills but then you are right next to the road. For $25 per night, plus your park admission, you will get water and electric hookup and access to a dump site. The location is convenient to some trails that take you down to Honey Creek close to some of the smaller falls. There is also creek swimming in the area.
For $40/night you can have a place away from any bugs as well as water and electricity. You will still have to pay park admission, per person, per day. The shelters are located just off of the main park road. The are a within walking distance of the bathhouse and restroom. They have a laundromat and a concession stand nearby.
The primitive sites are for car campers in tents and do not have water or electric hookups. If you do not enjoy doing your business in the woods there are plenty of porta-potties near all of the campsites. The campsites all have a fire ring made from stones, a picnic table, and many have a charcoal grill as well. The best sites are in two areas. If you want to enjoy a pretty view, there are campsites along Butterfly Road that look out over the Arbuckle Mountains. You will have to transport in water though because there is no water source there. The other great sites are along Honey Creek, at the back of the park, off Wagon Road. You can camp right next to the creek and if you have a water filter you won’t have to worry about bringing in water.
We chose to camp at a primitive site. Even though we were there in November which is the off-season, we could still see and hear our neighbors despite them being a little ways away. During the high-season, your neighbors will be right up next to you as there were three other sites with-in a stones throw of ours. Because of the busy high season, there is not much deadwood lying around to make fires with. It is also a very moist area as evidenced by the many ferns carpeting the woods. It would be a smart idea to bring in your own firewood if you want to have a fire.
There are several hiking trails in the park. The two named trails do wander up into the woods but the rest are more paths to just walk between the different sections of the creek. We did not have time for hiking since we were only at the park for one night. However, pretty much the whole creek can be accessed with a short walk from one of the many parking areas.
An old summer home, the Castle is a neat little side attraction to see at Turner Falls. Used as a summer home in the 30’s, it’s stone construction is interesting to check out. It’s located along the pathway to the main waterfall so it is an easy detour up some stone steps to stop and explore.
The Falls and Honey Creek
This is what makes Turner Falls park still worth a visit despite it’s over-commercialization and other flaws. The main falls truly are beautiful. The smaller falls, while not as majestic, are also a site to see in their own right.
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