PLATT NATIONAL PARK PREHISTORY
In the year 2006, the National Park Service celebrated the centennial of the existence of Platt National Park and its service to the community, area, state and the nation as a truly unique recreational site.
There have been only two National Parks with the distinction of having been set aside because of the mineral properties of the waters. These are Hot Springs and Platt National Park's. These two Park's were also the smallest, in area, in the Park system at the time.
During the year of 2006, we submitted to you stories that directly relate to the history, preservation and development of the streams and springs that eventually became known as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area (CNRA).
In some of these articles we referred to this area as the Sulphur Springs Reservation, Platt National Park or the CNRA. They will all refer to what is today called the Historic Platt District of the CNRA.
It was also noted that Travertine Creek was originally called Sulphur Creek and the latter name might occasionally be used. Also mentioned in records is Limestone Creek. This stream is the small tributary, which flows from the north, into Travertine Creek at Travertine Island.
The indigenous native tribes such as the Caddo, Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, Plains Apache, and Osage used the medicinal waters of the area that would eventually become known as Sulphur Springs Reservation for hundreds of years before the arrival of the white man.
This unique geological feature was neatly hidden in the hills surrounded by a vast, relatively flat, treeless savanna. If an ancient traveler passed as little as a few hundred yards to one side or the other, they could have easily missed the beauty of the springs.
The Park became known for its mineral and non-mineral springs, cool wooded stream bottoms and an abundance of water. There were many natural cascades and waterfalls, some measuring five feet in height, as well as placid pools. The springs yielded some five million gallons of water daily.
The land that became Platt National Park was part of the Louisiana Purchase obtained from France in 1803. Almost immediately, there were efforts to remove the native tribes of the southeastern part of the United States to this land west of the Mississippi River. In 1812 it was combined with the Missouri Territory, and in 1819 with the Arkansas Territory.
President Andrew Jackson pushed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in law. This allowed for the removal of these tribes to the west where the Choctaw tribe was given the land between the Canadian and Red Rivers in the early 1830's. U.S. Secretary of War John Eaton and a group of Choctaw leaders signed the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek on September 27, 1830, in which the Choctaws agreed to remove to the West.
Their land extended, east and west, from within the Texas panhandle in the Palo Duro Canyon into Arkansas. The east and west boundaries were later changed to their present boundaries of the state of Oklahoma by treaties with the Choctaws and Chickasaws.
In 1837, by treaty, the Chickasaw tribe exchanged their land in the east, with a considerable sum of money, for the right to live in the Choctaw Nation. This new land was difficult for the Chickasaws and Choctaws to adapt. The land was very fertile and the two tribes learned to grow corn, cotton, sorghum, oats, wheat and livestock in the much drier and temperamental climate.
As early as the 1840's, the Chickasaws discovered the cool, wooded springs of the area and held their tribal councils during the summer in this area near Lowrance Springs. Within a relatively small geographical area, the headwaters of Mill Creek (originally called Cherokee Creek), Pennington Creek, Blue River, Rock Creek, Travertine Creek, Honey Creek, Sandy Creek and a thousand other springs bubbled to the surface from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.
The Simpson Aquifer is an area of about 12 square miles and has a storage capacity that is quite small and is quickly depleted unless there is frequent rainfall. The water flowing from Buffalo and Antelope Springs comes from a depth of about 400 feet.
The stream originating at these two springs exhibited a wonderful collection of pools, the largest Lake Placid near Travertine Island, and many waterfalls and cascades. Many of these natural waterfalls were later enhanced to create more swimming areas. Their names were Grand Rapids, Little Niagara, Garfield Falls, Sycamore Falls, Lost Falls, Bear Falls and Panther Falls.
The Sulphur-Asphalt Springs, later called Wilson Springs, was thought to posses healing waters of a special quality. There were many springs in this Park of Indian Territory that exuded an oily substance with the water which Indians and immigrants thought held miraculous cures. Oil Springs at the headwaters of Oil Creek was another local example.
In a statement before a Senate subcommittee in 2004, A. Durand Jones, deputy director, National Park Service noted: "The Chickasaw Nation, fearful that Seven Springs now "Pavilion Springs" would end up in the hands of private developers, agreed to cede the springs to the Federal government. Amending the Treaty of Atoka of 1897, the Chickasaw and the Choctaw ceded a tract of 640 acres containing the springs to the Federal government for $20 an acre.
The government set aside the 640 acres as the Sulphur Springs Reservation in 1902. In 1904, 218 acres were added and Sulphur Springs Reservation was opened to the public. Renamed Platt National Park in 1906 in honor of Senator Orville H. Platt of Connecticut, it carried that name for the next 70 years."
On June 29, 1906, the Sulphur Springs Reservation became the Platt National Park, the seventh Park in existence. However, there was no National Park Service until 1916. At this time, the Secretary of the Interior managed all the national Parks personally.
Each chapter is this book represents a weekly newspaper article and we have received many calls from readers wanting to have all the articles published together in one book. Hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did researching and writing them.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief - October 2006