Summer Staycations: McCurtain County Shifts From Oklahoma's 'Best Kept Secret' To Booming Tourist Community

Monday, June 29th 2020, 5:37 pm
By: Tess Maune


The water on the Lower Mountain Fork River moves pretty fast, but the pace down in McCurtain County is nice and slow.

"Love it here. Best retirement anyone could have," said Chris Shatte, owner of Beavers Bend Fly Fishing Guide Service.

Chris Shatte is a fishing guide in retirement on Oklahoma's only waterway that offers trout fishing year around. It's also home to scenic views, like an eagle soaring overhead scanning the water for a bite to eat.

"This part of the river is more what you would see in, say, Colorado or in a mountain stream," Shatte said.

It's a tributary of Broken Bow Lake, nestled between the Ouachita and Kiamichi mountains.

"I've been all over Oklahoma, and this little southeast corner is completely different -- the mountains, the trees. It's very beautiful," said Ashley Porton, a lifelong resident of McCurtain County.

The area is dotted by several small towns that are seeing a big boom in tourism, more than a million visitors a year in a county with a population of about 34,000.

"The scenery's beautiful, especially where all the cabins are up and down in hills and creeks," said Grey Coker, who's visiting the area from Texas with his family.

More than 3,000 secluded cabins have popped up in the pines of southeastern Oklahoma, some big enough for 20 or more people.

"It's just relaxing," said Lauren Jeanes.

"For us, it's just a good detox and then back to the grind, which I think it is for a lot of people," added Lauren's husband Dustin.

Dustin grew up in Broken Bow. He, his wife and their little girl, Josie, live in Edmond now, but they're still investing in his hometown with "The Vaquero." It's a luxury cabin they've built on a quiet hillside to rent out, so other folks can experience the area they love so much.

"It's one of those things. You're close to everything; you're just not in the middle of everything," Dustin said.

With just a 5-minute drive, you're in the heart of all the action in town.

Kids searching for treasures at the Beaver's Bend Mining Company, where a blacksmith will make them a sword, or they can even ride a T-Rex.

Then over at Beavers Bend State Park, folks can ride horseback, take a train ride through mountains or maybe zip-line through the woods and over the water with Rugaru Adventures.

"That's the cajun word for Bigfoot," said Rugaru Adventures Manager Jared Engler. "Lots of legends of Bigfoot around this area, lots of tales, tall tales."

From tall tales, to real stories, there's a good one behind how one of the area's popular pizza places got started. It's called Grateful Head, owned by two "Dead Heads," who wanted to make money to go to as many Grateful Dead concerts as possible.

"They decided to open a pizza restaurant so they could afford to go out and see their favorite band," said Porton, who's also the manager at Grateful Head.

Ten years later, they've watched a lot of live music and they've sold even more pizza.

Across the street, it's not about eating, it's about drinking at Girls Gone Wine.

"Everything we serve and sell is made here," the owner told News On 6. "Sweet red, sweet red's probably [the most popular]."

Next door, beer's the choice at Beaver's Bend Brewery, with close to a dozen house brews on tap.

"Just watch this place literally explode, for the better, it's world's difference," Dustin Jeanes said.

The main drag looks a lot different from the one-stop lake community it once was. McCurtain County used to say it was Oklahoma's best kept secret, but it's clear that is not the case anymore.    

"The secret's out. Everybody comes here now, as they should. It's awesome," Dustin said.


McCurtain County Tourism:


Beavers Bend Fly Fishing Guide Service:


The Vaquero


Beavers Bend Mining Company


Beavers Bend Train Depot and Trail Rides


Rugaru Adventures


Grateful Head Pizza


Girls Gone Wine


Beaver's Bend Brewery