This year the TR Center is joining with Valerie Naylor, former superintendent of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, to hunt out the TR related collections in parks dedicated by him. "My goal is to get items that are critical but that we haven't seen before," Naylor states. We will post updates of her travels and finds.
I spent a pleasant spring weekend in Platt National Park near Sulphur, Oklahoma, created in 1906 during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. You may not be familiar with it. You won’t find it on a map or list of national parks because it doesn’t exist anymore. Except, it does.
Platt is one of five national parks established during TR’s Presidency, but it has a complicated political history. In short, Oklahoma was Indian Territory and a collection of natural freshwater and sulphur springs belonged to the Choctaw and Chickasaw people. As settlers moved in, the native peoples feared they would lose access to this important area. They prevented that by selling 640 acres of land to the Federal Government in 1902 to become the Sulphur Springs Reservation. In 1906, a joint resolution of Congress changed the name of the reservation to Platt National Park. Although popular, it was not like other national parks. It was small and did not have much diversity. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) created some man-made features of interest - waterfalls, fountains, bridges, trails and pavilions. The CCC also planted 500,000 trees and shrubs. Despite its small size, Platt kept the national park name for 70 years. In 1976, the area was combined with nearby Arbuckle Recreation Area to form Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Platt National Park is now the Platt Historic District.
The diversity of the 10,000 acre area is astounding. Recreation areas are often focused on water sports. Chickasaw is all about water, but the water and surrounding land provide a wide variety of recreational experiences. The Lake of the Arbuckles and Veteran’s Lake are two major reservoirs, but there are also streams, springs and fountains. Visitors can camp, picnic, hike, stroll, boat, waterski, bike, fish, hunt, birdwatch, stargaze, horseback ride, swim or just sit by the springs. There is even a small herd of bison. And the oasis of historic Platt National Park is all right there. The Chickasaw people are very much a part of the successful community of Sulphur and the surrounding area.
My work at the park was to scour the archives for any documents pertaining to Theodore Roosevelt. I didn’t find any, as TR didn’t have much of a role in this area being named a National Park. However, I think he would be delighted with the area today. I certainly was. `