• Little Niagra

    Chickasaw

    National Recreation Area Oklahoma

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Warning to Boaters

    Chickasaw National Recreation area is warning all boat users to be cautious while boating on Lake of the Arbuckles due to low water levels in the lake. More »

  • Swimming Areas Closed

    Due to low water flow in Travertine Creek, the Little Niagara, Panther Falls, and Bear Falls swimming areas are closed until further notice. The Little Niagara and Panther Falls picnic areas remain open.

  • Eagle Bay Boat Launch Closed

    Due to low water in Lake of the Arbuckles, Eagle Bay Boat Launch is closed.

Freshwater Springs

Upper Antelope Springs falls
50 yards downstream from the source of Antelope Springs during typical flowing water conditions
NPS/Chickasaw National Recreation Area
 

Much of the water in the park comes from Buffalo Springs and Antelope Spring in the eastern end of the Platt Historic District. These two springs have a combined flow of about five million gallons of water a day during normal years. They are most interesting because of their beauty and size, and for their role as the sole source of Travertine Creek. Both springs are situated along the main foot trail that follows Travertine Creek from the nature center.

 
antelope springs number 2
Antelope Springs, no flow since September 10, 2012 during drought conditions.
 

The springs feeding Travertine Creek stopped flowing last year. Why?

The water in the springs comes from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. The aquifer is an underground storehouse of water. Wherever a crack or a drilled well taps into the aquifer, the water comes to the surface. The aquifer can be thought of as a container of water with holes in the sides. Rainfall fills the container from the top. Springs and wells drain the aquifer.

The springs will stop flowing as the aquifer goes down. When water is removed from the aquifer through springs and wells, faster than rainfall can refill it, some springs and wells go dry.

The springs have dried up before. Most significantly in the 1910’s, 1930’s, and 1950’s. These were the times of the deepest droughts in Oklahoma.

We have documented 22 times in the last 100 years that the springs have been dry. At times they were dry for only a few weeks. Other times, like the period from 1954-1957, they were dry for nearly 3 years straight. The land around the springs has been a National Park since 1906. One of the main reasons for the protection of the park is to "protect the springs and waters; provide outdoor recreation; protect scenic, scientific, natural and historic values.". From the beginning the waters of Travertine Creek were very important to the park and its visitors. Records of the streams flow and condition were maintained throughout this period. Today, water flow is monitored by computerized equipment allowing scientists to get accurate data on the stream condition.

When the water in the aquifer returns to a level that feeds the springs, they will flow again. We have no control over how fast the aquifer fills. This is based on rainfall. Some of the rain that falls washes out down streams and rivers as surface water. Some of the rain that falls is taken up by plants and trees or evaporates off the surface. Only that portion of the rain that seeps down into the aquifer will bring the level up.

While we have no control over natural springs, we do have control over wells.

Drinking water for surrounding communities comes out of the aquifer. The faster we use it, the more water comes out of the aquifer.

Documented dry periods for Antelope Springs:
Mar 1911 - Apr 1912
Sep 1912 - Nov 1913
Mar 1918 – Dec 1919
Apr 1927 – Aug 1927
Aug 1934 – Sep 1936
Sep 1937 – Feb 1938
Sep 1938 – Jun 1940
Dec 1951 – Apr 1952
Sep 1952 – Jun 1954
Aug 1954 – May 1957
Jan 1959 – Dec 1959
Aug 1963 – Nov 1964
Aug 1965 – Jul 1967
Dec 1, 1976 – Mar 31, 1977
Dec 23, 1977 – Mar 31, 1978
Dec 15, 1978 – Feb 28, 1979
Dec 31, 1979 – Sep 30, 1981
Jul 10, 1984 – Oct 31, 1984
Oct 6, 2006 – Oct 13, 2006
Jan 12, 2009 – May 4, 2009
July 26, 2011 – Dec 12, 2011
Sept 8, 2012 - June 12, 2013
February 13, 2014 to present

Both springs are currently dry.

Did You Know?

Swiming at the Buckhorn area

Locally known as 'Arbuckle Lake,' the proper name for the reservoir is "Lake of the Arbuckles." The lake is the focal point of the Arbuckle District in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. More...