We first visited Turner Falls Park in Davis about 15 years ago, and it turned in to an annual trip, centered around when my husband would be gone for the weekend to the Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway each June. Friends started to come with us. We found an incredible campsite, and moved from weekend stays to during the week, when it is much less crowded. And I always wondered what it was like during the winter.
The think I love about Texas winters is that they are so mild. You’ll get a few miserably cold days, but you’ll be rewarded by many sunny, mild days perfect for hiking and exploring outside! While Turner Falls may be in Oklahoma, at only 1 hour from the Texas border in Gainesville, it’s an easy trip from North Texas, and a great winter getaway!
At 77′ tall, it’s easily dwarfed by some of the country’s larger waterfalls, such as Colonial Creek Falls in Washington at 2,568 ft., but it’s a beautiful waterfall, and the waters pool into a dammed off area for a crystal clear swimming hole. The first thing we noticed was that the water was low, but spring rains will have it running again by summer! In the water’s absence, we were able to explore the caves under the falls.
A view of the falls from the other side of the lake. There was still ice in the grotto under the falls.
The falls are located about a 1/4 mile from the parking lot along a concrete path. There are numerous picnic tables along the walk, and a sandy beach with a bathhouse. We usually take a wagon to carry food and drinks, floats and tired children on the way out.
Honey Creek flowing out of the falls. In late fall, it is stocked with rainbow trout, and visitors trade-in their inner tubes for fishing tackle! An Oklahoma fishing license is required, but they do offer a one day limited use license.
In late January, most of the trout we fished out. We still enjoyed just playing around in the creek. It felt as it we had the park to ourselves!
The rocks were dried off and easier to cross in the winter.
There are 2 caves to explore near the waterfall, and we decided that winter is definitely the best time to do it!
With family trip traditions come great stories. We were at Turner Falls last summer when my little guy, above, was wondering around in the creek barefoot. I was only standing a few feet downriver of him, when he screamed, and as I looked up I noticed that the water as it flowed past him was turning red! He continued to scream (this boy is loud) as he saw it, and everyone came running in our direction. He only had a small cut on his foot, which he later said was from sticking his foot inside one of the holes in the rocks. He was taken by park police to the first aid station, and after cleaning it and a band aid, it didn’t even need stitches. So wear shoes in the water. And don’t stick your foot in holes.
During the summer we use to tent camp up on the mountain on the Butterly Loop, until I forgot the tent poles one trip. I packed the tent, just not the poles. Not even my first time to forget to pack the tent poles, I hate to say. Of course, we didn’t discover this until that night, after a long, exhausting day of playing in the park! We did have 5 hammocks, and we each climbed in and went to sleep. The cool breeze on the mountain made for the best night’s sleep I’d ever had camping during the summer, and we became a hammock camping family.
Along the walk to the falls, you’ll pass the Castle. The remains of a stone castle, built in the 1930’s, are open and great for a hike on a warm winter day!
The castle is also accessible from the parking lot at the top of the mountain, and you can walk down.
I took a lot of pictures that day of the castle.
My ghost-hunting readers will love this one, which shows an orange orb and a purple streak. While I think it’s a beautiful place to explore, and loved not having a crowd during the winter, there is a tale of the castle being haunted. I’m pretty sure it’s just a fun tale to tell around the campfire late at night!
The overlook from the road into Turner Falls.
The zipline across the canyon is awesome! At $12.50/person, it’s fairly affordable, too! Click HERE to visit their website for dates and times.
The cabins are located about half-way between the falls and the Blue Hole, the other big swimming area at Turner Falls. The cabins offer 2 full beds, a stove, microwave, mini-fridge and a bathroom. Overlooking a small ravine, we heard plenty of animals and while it’s location across from one of the bathhouses is busy during the summer, we had the place all to ourselves in winter.
While the cabins are nice during the winter, they are in high demand during the summer and weekends are usually all booked before Spring Break!
RV and Tent Camping is First Come First Serve all year long.
There are some private cabins inside the park for rent, which I’ve never stayed at, but I’ve seen numerous discouraging reviews, and the Turner Falls Inn has cute cabins along Honey Creek. I’ve never stayed here either, but thinking we might next fall. Click HERE to visit their website.
Wildlife is abundant in Turner Falls, and we’ve never gone that I haven’t seen wild turkeys up on the mountain above the falls! In the 15 years we’ve visited, we’ve also seen plenty of deer, and a few wild pigs up way up the mountain. But it’s the raccoons that are the most notorious at Turner Falls! When camping up on the mountain, they come after dark in a gang, hitting every trash can! We hear them fall, one after another. The solitary ones come after to clean up the mess. Be sure you put all trash in the trash can, and DO NOT leave any food in your campsite or any access to your ice chest!
Tarantulas are common here, and in the evenings we like to load up in the car and drive the road searching for them and other wildlife! It’s fun and we’re always guaranteed of seeing something, although I did get a warning once for improper use of my headlights while trying to spot their eye-shine on a cliff wall. Memories.
My favorite campsites are up on the Butterly Loop, along Honey Creek. This is the coldest water in the park, and your teeth will chatter on the hottest summer days! In January, it was still tempting to jump from the rope swing, but we just hiked along the creek instead. The bare trees made it easier to see the small caves in the cliffs that are usually covered up in the summer.
This little swimming hole is made possible by a man made dam. On the other side of the dam my kids love to explore in the cold water, where they’ve often found blue crawfish and even bullfrog tadpoles, which are HUGE and can remain in the tadpole stage for up to 2 years!
The Trading Post sells souvenirs, ice, fire wood and other camping necessities, including water shoes! Don’t even try to walk in the creek without a pair!
During the summer, the café and Ice Cream Shop are happening places, but during the winter we had to feed ourselves and grab dinner at Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch. Don’t feel too bad for us, I know people who will drive from Texas JUST to eat at Smokin’ Joes!
That’s it for our Winter Trip, but here’s some more of my pictures from Summer’s past.
The falls in the summer.
My now 18 year old, tubing down Honey Creek from the Falls to the Blue Hole. We always pack a lunch in our car, and park about half-way, so we can stop and grab a bite to eat!
A group of us from about 7 years ago. Children 12 and under MUST ALWAYS WEAR A LIFE JACKET at Turner Falls.
Chillin’ under the Falls!
My now 10-year-old. Take your time to let them explore the natural world!
So many memories!
A view of Honey Creek from above the falls!
Know Before You Go
No dogs are allowed in the park.
Bring water shoes.
Things To Do in Davis, Oklahoma
Arbuckle Wilderness Drive Thru Animal Park in Davis. Click HERE to visit their website.
The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is just north of Davis, and has many rescued animals, click HERE to visit their website.
Arbuckle Trail Rides takes you on guided horseback rides in the Arbuckle Mountains. Reservations are required. Click HERE for more information.
Washita River Canoes, 580-369-2223 rents canoes and will shuttle you to and back from the Washita River for a day trip through Big Canyon.
You could spend an entire weekend at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. Both are FREE and an absolute must visit when in the area! Click HERE to read more.
Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch in Davis is worth the drive! Click HERE to visit their facebook page.
Turner Falls Park
I-35 and US-77, Davis, Oklahoma
Click HERE to visit their website.
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