Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tenkiller State Park and Tahlequah

We left Poteau on Sunday. Initially we had planned to go to East Texas to check on timber operations at John's family property in Rusk, Texas. Timber work hasn't started, though, so we made another plan.

On the advice of a fellow RVer, we decided to drive north to Tenkiller Ferry Lake near Tahlequah and Muskogee in the eastern part of the state. Why? Well, besides being a beautiful lake in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, it supposedly has the clearest water in Oklahoma, and there are also trout! According to our friend, an active, year-round stocking program in the Illinois River just below the dam provides lots of nice fish. So, we decided to make the 60 mile trip and check it out.  Here is a view of the shoreline with some of those magnificent autumn leaves.

We camped at Tenkiller State Park in a lovely, grassy site with nice shade trees and full hookups!  Until the following weekend, we practically had the place to ourselves, with at most two other rigs in addition to the camp host. 

But that's not the best part. Tenkiller Ferry Lake is administered by the Corps of Engineers, and there are also a number of COE parks in the area. We considered relocating, as their fees are quite a bit less, but for the short time we're staying it didn't seem worth the effort. Besides, there is a lovely 1.25-mile nature trail just five minutes from camp. The dogs can have all the off-leash time they want there, and John and I can get our exercise as well. Here are some photos of the trail (which is barely visible under all those autumn leaves).  


Also blending in well with the fallen leaves was this beautiful Eastern Hognose Snake. 

The dogs are having a good time, and Kota has learned a new trick. Earlier this week she spent a good five minutes circling on her tie-out until she found just the right spot. Then she carefully buried her bone and mounded up a nice pile of leaves so no one could see it. The next day her tummy must have been a little upset because she didn't eat her breakfast. Instead, she "buried" it as well.

Tenkiller Lake S.P. is less than 30 miles from one of Oklahoma's most interesting small cities, Tahlequah. Located only a few miles from the Arkansas border, it is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Here can also be seen the historici Cherokee capital, the old tribal prison, the Cherokee Supreme Court Building and Tsa-La-Gi, a replica of a Cherokee village from the 1700s.

After passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, when the US Government essentially stole their lands, the Cherokees were rounded up and forced to come west, along with members of the other Five Civilized Tribes, the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw. Many died, including over 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee. Their arduous journey has become known as the Trail of Tears.

After their removal from Georgia in 1838, the Cherokee settled at Tahlequah where they established a sophisticated tribal government and schools for both boys and girls. They also invented a syllabary for their language and produced Oklahoma's first newspaper in both Cherokee and English.  They are a remarkable people, and are said to be the country's largest Native American tribe. 

We enjoyed our visit to the Cherokee History Museum and Cherokee village. Our guide, James, demonstrated the game of stick-ball, a version of which is still played. (The original game was sometimes used to settle disputes and could involve hundreds of "players" and the loss of a number of lives.) He also showed us how blow guns and darts were made and used and explained the intricacies of the Cherokee matriarchal society.

James also introduced us to Tim, who demonstrated the intricacies of flint knapping and explained how the traditional bows and arrows were made. His skill with the flint, bone and antler tools was astonishing, as was the quality of the flint points he was fabricating.

Even though we didn't catch any trout, we still enjoyed our stay at Tenkiller Lake.  For those of you who would like to fish....please realize that the water level in the river directly below the dam may change dramatically several times a day as water is released to generate electricity.  Farther downstream, the fishing may be more predictable, but we decided to wait for another opportunity.    We enjoyed our visit, though, and plan to come back to explore this area more fully.
We did make one more delightful discovery before leaving, though.  We went into the small town of Gore, Oklahoma (population some 900) to do laundry and found Emily's Tea Room. 
We had great egg salad BLT sandwiches, and browsed around the attached antique shop.

In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we went back on Saturday for their Pot Roast Special.  I wouldn't have believed it, but Emily's pot roast was second only to my mother's!  We stuffed ourselves and even made room for a piece of coconut cream pie.  At the table next to ours was a group of Red Hat Society ladies from the area.  I asked permission to take their picture because they are exactly what a Red Hat Society should be!

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