In 1974, American movie goers were introduced to the magic that is the Ozarks in “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Norman Tokar used a 77-foot waterfall and lush foothill location to create the setting for the movie based on Wilson Rawls’ book by the same name. The coming-of-age tale was filmed in and around a once private park near West Siloam Springs, Oklahoma. Now visitors inspired by the movie or intrigued by the site can come to visit for the day or stay the night.
Locals call the park “Dripping Springs,” but when the Oklahoma State Parks system took over management, it was renamed “Natural Falls.” This is intended to avoid confusion with another State Park called Dripping Springs, which is located near Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Natural Falls is actually close enough to the Arkansas border one can see over the state border.
Primitive sites allow campers to pitch tents near picnic tables and grills. They are also located near a min-comfort station that provides warm water for showers. Due to the treachery of Oklahoma weather, these sites are winterized and closed from November to March so plan for a summer visit.
Those who prefer self-contained recreational vehicles have 44 different sites to choose from. 30 amp and 50 amp electrical hook ups are available as well as water hook ups and a sanitation dump station. One can even reserve pull through sites. For those who also cannot do without the convenience of the internet, one can connect through free wi-fi at the park headquarters.
Natural Falls State Park is a dream for nature lovers. The 77-foot tall waterfall is one of the largest in the Ozark Mountain area and is also relatively easy to access. Those with limited mobility will find they can enjoy the waterfall from the observation deck at the top of the falls. Those without restriction will need to hike down a steep pathway to reach the lower observation deck. It is positioned to provide a view of the v-shaped crevice the waterfall has carved over time.
Besides the waterfall, Natural Falls is home to many species of plants and animals native to the region. The top of the park actually has a different type of flora than the valley. Up above, one sees rocky outcroppings that provide purchase to plants like post or black jack oak. As one moves down into the valley one begins to see more lush vegetation like maple, red-bud and dogwood. The valley floor is often carpeted with sassafras and paw-paw. Along the waterfall one can see moss and fern that thrive in the moist atmosphere. Native animals love the hollows and caves the water creates, and so beaver, bobcats and coyotes call the valley home. One can find salamanders and bats if one is willing to explore the darker caves.
If wildlife viewing is not enough for the outdoor enthusiast in the party, Natural Falls State Park allows bikers to travel many trails. There are also hiking trails and fishing holes available for those who enjoy those activities. And for competitive visitors, a volleyball court is available for a quick game in a beautiful environment.
Not everyone is looking for an overnight excursion and Natural Falls is a lovely place for a day trip. For a low parking fee that helps cover the cost of maintaining the natural environment, day visitors can speak with park naturalists about the region and learn more about the move that was filmed here. They can also enjoy the walk around the falls, or watch their children play in a naturally inspired playground. Grills and picnic tables are scattered all over the park. Red flag warnings that restrict the use of open fires will be posted at the park entrance so look for those before grilling.
Businesses and corporations who are looking for an inspiring location for a retreat can use group meeting facilities erected at the park. Comfortably holding up to 50 people, these facilities come equipped with tables and grills as well.
Day trippers, hikers, wild life enthusiasts or overnight campers are all welcome at Natural Falls State Park. The park naturalists would love to give a tour. Just ask at Headquarters and enjoy.