Setting of “Where the Red Fern Grows”
Natural Falls State Park is one of the most beautiful scenic wonders in the state of Oklahoma.
Located just a few miles west of the Arkansas state line city of Siloam Springs, the stunning 77 foot waterfall is the center piece of an outstanding Oklahoma State Park. The falls can be seen from overlooks, trails and boardwalks.
The natural setting and scenic beauty of the waterfall is known to millions of movie lovers. The popular 1974 film Where the Red Fern Grows was filmed in part at Natural Falls (then called Dripping Springs). The movie tells the story of a young boy growing up in rural Oklahoma during the hard times of the Great Depression and is considered an American classic.
The geology and mountainous terrain of the park often surprise visitors who expect Oklahoma to be a place of open plains and wide rolling prairies. The northeastern corner of the state, however, is part of the famed Ozarks region, known for its rugged scenery and beautiful views.
The waterfall at Natural Falls is formed where Dripping Springs Branch plunges over a limestone cliff into a deep V-shaped ravine. The rugged ravine was carved over thousands of years by the flowing waters of the stream.
The bottom of the ravine is a sanctuary of peace set to the music of the waterfall. Rare plants and animals thrive in the cool protected setting.
Local residents called this place Dripping Springs, but the name was changed to Natural Falls when the property became a state park. It is in the region that was established as the Cherokee Nation in the 1830s when the Cherokee people were forced west on the Trail of Tears. Early Cherokee settlers found the falls and they have attracted visitors ever since. In the Old West days, however, not all of these visitors had good intentions!
This section of the Ozarks was a hideout for guerrilla bands during and after the Civil War. These raiders targeted soldiers and civilians alike and neither the Confederate nor the Union army was able to root them out. These gangs continued to cause trouble after the war and their violent exploits gave root to such modern stories and movies as True Grit and Hang ‘Em High.
These Old West gunfighters preyed on peaceful Cherokee farmers and rangers but they met their match in “Hanging Judge” Isaac C. Parker and his Deputy U.S. Marshals from Fort Smith. Judge Parker hired deputies of all races who worked alongside the Cherokee mounted police to bring law and order to the frontier.
The highlight of Natural Falls State Park, of course, is the 77-foot waterfall itself. It is one of the largest and easiest to access waterfalls in the Oklahoma and Arkansas mountain region. A paved trail leads to overlooks and finally a viewing platform at the bottom of the falls. The upper platform is accessible to visitors of all abilities, but the lower one requires a steep walk to the bottom of the ravine (and a steep walk back up!).
The park’s trail system also winds through dense forests where hikers can see many trees and plants that are native to Oklahoma. These include chinquapin, white oak, maple, sassafras, flowering dogwood, redbud and others. a
The park also offers 5 yurts, 44 RV sites (seven with full hook-ups), tent camping, hiking, picnic areas and other amenities. Swimming is not allowed in the waterfall, but there is a small creekside swimming area nearby.
Natural Falls State Park is located just off US 412 about six miles west of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The address is 19068 East 578 Road, Colcord, Oklahoma. Please see the map at the bottom of this page for directions. The park is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost of admission is $5 per car (Oklahoma seniors and Oklahoma honorably discharged veterans with documentation are admitted free).