I haven’t actually filmed an episode here yet but last Saturday afternoon I stopped by one of America’s forgotten treasures: old Platt National Park in Sulphur, Oklahoma. I say “old” because Platt no longer exists — at least not in the honor it once did for 70 years. Created in 1906 by Congress in the second wave of national park creation, Platt preserves a 900-acre tract of wooded valleys and springs that was donated by the Chickasaw nation in 1902. Platt became a haven for wellness seekers because of its 30-some-odd fresh and mineral water springs, some of which were given healing credit. At its heyday right after World War II, Platt drew more patrons than any other national park save for Great Smoky Mountains. It helped that Platt was the only park for 1000 miles between Colorado, South Dakota and Kentucky. And at 1.5 square miles in size, it was also the smallest national park upon its creation. Platt was unique to all national parks except Hot Springs because it was created to preserve a health and wellness attraction. There are no major geological or historical reasons for a national park in Sulphur, Oklahoma. When a man-made lake was placed nearby and a recreation area created, pressure mounted on Congress to combine the park and the lake into one entity, managed by the National Park Service. So in 1976, Platt became no more and Chickasaw National Recreation Area was formed. So now there is only one national park in America’s heartland: Hot Springs in Arkansas.
I saw Platt briefly profiled on our local PBS station about three months ago and immediately decided to check it out personally. I had no idea there was once a national park so close to me. I had to see what traces of the national park remained and what made the place so special. So I went last Saturday, camera and curiosity in hand, and edited a short, narration-less, video. Take a look.