Bathing Beach Monitoring Program

Swimming at Little Niagra, 1957
Swimming at Little Niagara, 1957

NPS Photo


Status of Bacterial Levels for Beach Recreational Use

Updated 31 Agust 2023

Bacteria Levels are tested weekly at various water access areas throughout the park







30 Day Geometric Mean

Little Niagara







Bear Falls







Panther Falls







Black Sulphur Springs







Buckhorn Pavilion







Buckhorn Loop D







Point Day Use







40 Foot Hole







Veterans Lake







Goddard Youth Camp







NR - No Results Values in red exceed threshhold value

Threshold limits = weekly measurement >235 or 30 day geometric mean >126

Currently, Bear Falls and Little Niagara areas are listed as areas of bacterial concern. Bacterial levels exceed National Park Service standards for beach recreational use. Because of the increased risk of contracting an illness, the National Park Service advises against swimming in these areas until further notice.

The map below is provided for location reference. Areas of high bacterial concern are not marked on this map. A written description of the testing locations is located below the map.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the testing locations?

Little Niagara, Bear Falls, and Panther Falls are all on Travertine Creek, in the northeastern part of the park. Water flows from Little Niagara downstream to Bear Falls and on to Panther Falls.

Travertine Creek flows into Rock Creek at Black Sulphur Springs, another testing location. Water from the two streams mix here and continue downstream to 40' Hole, located along Cat's Eye Road, west of Veterans Lake.

Rock Creek does not flow into Veterans Lake. Veterans Lake is fed by Wilson Creek above its confluence with Rock Creek.

Lake of the Arbuckles has multiple testing locations. Two are at the Buckhorn Area, one at Loop D of Buckhorn Campground, and the other near the Buckhorn Pavilion, just southwest of the Buckhorn boat launch. One more testing area is located at The Point, at the picnic area at the end of Cooper Memorial Road.

Goddard Youth Camp, located on the south shore of Lake of the Arbuckles, is not open to the general public.

When can we swim in the creeks and the lake?

Water samples are taken weekly during the summer swimming season by a hydrologic technician and then analyzed at the natural resource laboratory here on the park. Test results are completed and posted on the park's website within 24 hours.

Bacteria levels may fluctuate from day to day. When collected samples exceed E. coli limits, the public health standard requires that the previous four weeks be averaged with the current readings to monitor long term trends. If the five week average and/or geometric mean is above the action level, the beach is posted with a sign notifying the public of high bacerial levels in the swimming area. When both the five week average and geometric mean fall below the action level, the notices signs are removed.

Other visitors are swimming even though a notice sign is posted. Is it safe?

Chickasaw National Recreation Area post notices to inform the public and to allow visitors to make their own decisions about how to recreate in the park safely.

Notice sign

Bacterial levels exceed National Park Service standards for beach recreational use. Because of the increased risk of contracting an illness, the National Park Service advises against swimming in the stream until further notice.

Where are the samples taken and where are the notices posted?

In popular swimming areas along Travertine Creek, Rock Creek, and Lake of the Arbuckles.

Why does Chickasaw National Recreation Area test for E. coli?

We sample and test water to determine the levels of bacteria that might indicate the presence of disease causing organisms.

Has the park tested for E. coli before? How long has the park tested for E. coli?

Since 2001, we have sampled and tested water in popular swimming areas along Travertine and Rock Creeks to determine the levels of bacteria that might indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms.

How often do the elevated levels of E. coli occur?

Elevated readings have been recorded during high use periods, after heavy rainfall events, and during periods of extended drought. Since 2001, we have been posting notices along the creek(s) when elevated readings occur.

How long is the monitoring period? Do you test year round?

The water quality monitoring program continues weekly during the summer swimming months, and monthly during the rest of the year. A standard operating procedure for beach posting is in place.

What are the sources of E. coli?

Microorganisms, including E. coli bacteria, are found in every part of our environment.

E. coli bacteria naturally occur in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and many other warm blooded animals. These bacteria aid in the digestion process and usually cause no harm. However, their presence in a water system is an indicator that other potential disease-causing pathogens may be present. Certain diseased animals may pass along these pathogens in their fecal waste products.

A few of the sources of E. coli contamination include: Domestic animal and wildlife waste, sewer overflows, seepage from septic systems, and runoff from surrounding streets and agricultural facilities. In addition, other human influences such as infants entering the water in diapers, or the over crowding of a given swimming area can lead to elevated bacterial levels.

Possible illnesses

Recreational activities in bacterially contaminated waters can result in severe infections of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and Hepatitis "A", are potentially contracted from contaminated water.

Children, pregnant women, and elderly persons are the most susceptible. Contact your primary health care provider.

For more information

Contact the Travertine Nature Center (580) 622-7234.

An informational letter is available upon request. Please send name and mailing address to Chickasaw National Recreation Area, 901 W. 1st Street, Sulphur, OK 73086.

Last updated: August 31, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

901 W. 1st Street
Sulphur, OK 73086


580 622-7234

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