SPRINGS LONG USED
It is not definitely known when the spring waters were first used for curative purposes. Tradition has it that the waters were known to the Indians, and that for many decades before the coming of the white man, the creek banks were dotted with the tepees of the Indians who came to drink the waters at certain seasons of the year. It is further recorded that white men first learned of the springs from the Indians. The summit of Bromide Hill was known to them as "Council Rock" and from there signal fires flashed messages to distant points. Whether these legends are true or not, the area now included in the park was for years, and still continues to be, a favorite camping ground and meeting place for the Indians. The abundance of water in a comparatively arid area also attracted numbers of wild animals, and gave the region a reputation as a hunting ground. Traces of this linger in the naming of the principal springs after the antelope and buffalo.
No one knows definitely who was the first white man to view the region, but it is regarded as fairly certain that Thomas Nuttal, the famous botanist, was there in 1819 on his memorable trip from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Platt National Park is located within the holdings of the Choctaw Nation of the old Indian Territory, established in 1832, and the greater part of the area was purchased from the Indians when the Sulphur Springs Reservation was established in 1902. On June 29, 1906, the name was changed to Platt National Park in honor of Orville Hitchcock Platt, Senator from Connecticut for 26 years, who was distinguished for his service to the red man as a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Much of the park area is characterized by conglomerate rock which outcrops frequently. Along Travertine Creek there are interesting deposits of travertine rock, a variety of soft limestone forming weird and fantastic shapes with comparative rapidity. Frequently, it almost encases living roots, stones, or other objects.
There are thirty-two springs of major importance and several, minor ones. Eighteen may be broadly classed as sulphur, six as fresh water, four as iron, and three as bromide springs.
The waters of the springs are for the equable use of all visitors, but they should be taken extensively only on the advice of competent physicians. The National Park Service facilitates the usefulness of the springs only by protecting and maintaining them according to the best possible standards. There are no provisions in the park or at the town of Sulphur for free consultation of physicians or treatment of the sick.
Pavilion Springs, Sulphur Bromide Spring, and Medicine Spring are among the best known of the mineral waters of the park. The best known of the Pavilion group is "Big Tom." These springs are located on Highway No. 18 across from Travertine Creek, near the former location of the old town of Sulphur. The Sulphur Bromide Spring issues from the base of Bromide Cliff and is dispensed from the Bromide Pavilion. Medicine Spring is also located here and dispensed from the pavilion.
The waters of Black Sulphur Spring are strongly impregnated with sulphur. This spring is located directly across Rock Creek from Flower Park and is dispensed from a small pavilion. Hillside Springs issue from a grotto in a rock wall just below the park office. This water is also sulphur, and flows about eighty gallons per minute.
In the eastern end of the park along Travertine Creek are two natural springs of considerable volume, flowing over 5,000,000 gallons per day of pure natural water. It is said that these were named from the herds of antelope and buffalo from the surrounding prairies which formerly came there to drink.
Buffalo Springs boils through a bed of sand in a most interesting manner. An extensive development of the adjacent area has been undertaken by the National Park Service, so that it now includes a natural stone basin for the spring, a barbecue pit, and ample parking space and picnic grounds. Buffalo Springs marks the eastern end of the park and the terminus of the trail and road system.
Antelope Springs, a short distance away, bursts from a group of conglomerate rocks in the hillside. This spring flows at the rate of 2000 gallons per minute, and is probably the most popular spring in the park. Nearby picnic grounds and a parking space have been developed.
ANIMALS AND PLANTS
Visitors to Platt National Park have an opportunity to see bison and elk, and occasionally deer. The raccoon, opossum, skunk, and cottontail rabbit are common. Jack and swamp rabbits are seen occasionally, and once in a while a muskrat. Fox squirrels scurry about the camp grounds making new friends every day.
Bird lovers will find many feathered favorites in the park at all seasons. The western meadow lark, prairie horned lark, sparrow hawk, and dove are to be seen in the open areas, and in the woodland are the robin, cardinal, orchard oriole, brown thrasher, yellow-bellied fly catcher, and many others. Along the streams are the kingfisher, winter wren, and little green heron.
The plant life of the park is varied and interesting because this section of the country is a meeting place of various plant groups. In addition to the familiar eastern and northern hardwoods there are many distinctly southern trees and desert plants, including yucca.
The most noteworthy flowering trees are the redbud, white flowering dogwood, Chickasaw plum, first to bloom in the spring, and various hawthorns. The rarest tree in the park is the Indian Cherry.
The most common of the vines is the Virginia creeper, notable for its brilliant scarlet coloring in autumn. Woolly Dutchman's Pipe with its curious flowers, wild frost or opossum grape, popular because of its fragrant flowers, and bittersweet flaunting bright colored berries in winter also contribute materially to the beauty of the park.
The handsome standing cypress or the Spanish larkspur, blooming in midsummer, is the most spectacular wild flower Other favorites are the primrose, lovely purple Kansas gay-feather, blue salvia, showy cardinal flower, goldenrod, and the asters. The prairie lily springs through the turf on the golf course after heavy rains. This curious plant is also called the rain lily.
Prickley pear, ball cactus, and green-flowered hedge hog cactus, each an interesting desert plant, are fairly common on the upper levels of the park. Another interesting plant is the sensitive brier or cat's claw, an unusually handsome pink sensitive plant. It is also known as gander's teeth.