The state of Oklahoma has long been portrayed on stage and screen as a vast, dry expanse of plains, grassland and even desert. While that holds true in certain regions, it’s inaccurate when describing a place such as Southeast Oklahoma and its mountains, lakes, rivers and lush forests. This is Choctaw Country, with its own natural beauty, history and culture as distinct and unique as you’ll find anywhere in the state.
In short, there’s a lot more to Oklahoma than people outside the state realize. As a business that serves clients in Atoka County and surrounding counties such as Johnston, Pushmataha and Bryan, United Country Real Estate | Clear View Realty & Auction is well-versed in everything Southeast Oklahoma has to offer.
Let’s take a closer look at why so many visitors and new residents alike are drawn to the region we call home.
Southeast Oklahoma’s original inhabitants were predominantly the people of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. The city of Atoka was named after Choctaw leader Captain Atoka in the 1850s, who signed a treaty some 20 years prior that led to the relocation of the Choctaw people from Mississippi to Oklahoma.
Today, places such as the Atoka Museum and Civil War Cemetery provide historical insight into Oklahoma’s role in the war, as well as the story of Atoka County. Native Americans were a significant part of this history, and the Choctaw Nation is still alive and well in the region in the modern era.
Of course, as in many states, the railroad industry gave Oklahoma a post-1900 economic boost. In addition, agriculture has always played a major role in the state’s identity and that’s evident by the many farms and ranches in the area today. Still, one cannot forget that Southeast Oklahoma is “Choctaw Country,” a term used in official Oklahoma tourism campaigns, both as reverence to the native people and as a nod to the stunning natural beauty of the land.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s more impressive — the fact that Oklahoma has 12 different ecoregions, or the fact that only a handful of U.S. states can claim the same. Some of these features – pine forest-covered mountain ranges, deep lakes, rivers, cypress swamps and the like – make up most of Southeast Oklahoma. They also provide the ideal setting for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and other outdoor adventures.
If recreation on the lake is what you like, our local Lake Atoka is popular for anglers pursuing bass, catfish and the primitive shortnose gar. Hugo Lake on the Kiamichi River is an hour away, while a little farther east at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, Broken Bow Lake is known for kayaking and scuba diving. Southeast Oklahoma state parks also stand out. Whether at the 35-acre Boggy Depot State Park or the 2,600-acre McGee Creek State Park (both in Atoka), there’s no shortage of activities in the great outdoors.
That latter park is a great spot for hunting deer, turkey, waterfowl and small game, as is Wister Wildlife Management Area within the Ouachita National Forest (about two hours away). Though these are just two among many other hunting destinations in the region.
Other state parks such as Raymond Gary, Clayton Lake and Arrowhead are around an hour from Atoka, offering everything from camp sites and picnic areas to swim beaches, ATV trails, horseback riding, mountain biking and even golf. Lastly, Chickasaw National Recreation Area along the Arbuckle Mountains is a bit more south-centrally located but perfect for boating, fishing and Ranger-led hikes.
While the seemingly endless opportunities for outdoor recreation in Southeast Oklahoma are amazing, there are plenty of other attractions to enjoy in and around the region. Arts, entertainment, shopping, museums and more await in Choctaw Country and beyond.
Given the emphasis on agriculture in Southeast Oklahoma,agritourism is particularly popular. From weekend getaways at guest ranches, to pick-your-own fruit farms, relaxing at area wineries and more … the options are abundant. If you’re idea of leisure is more about strolling through downtown shopping districts, cities such as Durant in Bryan County, and Tishomingo in Johnston County offer local boutiques, art galleries, eateries and the like.
Interested in local history? Durant has the Fort Washita Historic Site & Museum and the Three Valley Museum. Idabel’s Museum of the Red River features global art and archaeology, and the Oklahoma State Dinosaur. And in Antlers, you can visit the Pushmataha County Historical Society Museum and the Wildlife Heritage Center Museum.
Speaking of Antlers, its status as the “Deer Capital of the World” reflects the world-class deer hunting here, as well as the annual Deer Festival and Outdoor Show. And that’s just one among many other festivals and events in this part of Oklahoma. Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show in Broken Bow is a delight, and the state’s many rodeos always bring a crowd. Check out Durant PRCA Rodeo to start.
What else is there to do in the region? Maybe you’ll try your luck at one of the Choctaw Casinos & Resorts; gear up at the Atoka Motorsports Park; or head to Lake Texoma for a weekend of incredible striped bass fishing. The best things to see and do in Southeast Oklahoma are really up to you!
TravelOk.com; Otrd.TravelOk.com; ChoctawNation.com; ChoctawCountry.com; Atokaok.org; En.wikipedia.org; StateParks.com; OkHistory.org