Sometimes our vacations involve visiting a local museum to see and expose ourselves to things we normally would not see. Some of our best vacation memories are visiting museums and the cool things we saw there. For example, we visited an outdoor museum in Switzerland that features 100 rural houses and farm buildings that you can walk into and explore. On the surface, it sounds very boring, it was actually a very pleasant surprise and amazing experience for the kids to get hands-on with some of the old, traditional ways of doing things, and for us to learn what life was like through the history with exhibits and explanations in each of the homes. While not as exotic as Switzerland, McCurtain County offers its own unique experiences.
In McCurtain County, you can visit six museums different museums while you are in Broken Bow / Hochatown. We've summarized the museums here so you can easily plan your next trip and mapped them below.
- Museum of the Red River (free admission) is quite impressive from its natural history/science collection to its collections of art and culture from around the world. For the dinosaur enthusiasts, a 40 foot cast skeleton of Oklahoma state's dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus atokensis greets you in the first gallery. The Museum has over 33,000 objects from around the world and across time. The bulk of its collections is from the Americas. In fact, it houses one of the world’s most extensive collections of Amazonian feather work, Southwest ceramics, and Southeast basketry. It also has a significant collection of art from East Asia, West Africa and the Pacific Islands. Several hundred items are added each year, thanks to donors from across the country. The Museum is located at 812 E. Lincoln Rd, on the South Highway 70/259 Bypass, in Idabel, Oklahoma. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 10 am to 3 pm, CLOSED Mondays and National Holidays.
- Forest Heritage Center (free admission) is located in Beavers Bend State Park (north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma). Operated by the Forest Heritage Center Advisory Board and Oklahoma Forestry Services, the museum houses historical documents, antique forestry tools, wood art, homestead memorabilia, and a research library filled with books, periodicals, and other materials pertaining to forestry. Visitors to the museum will view 14 large dioramas (painted by Harry Rossoll of Atlanta, Georgia, the artist who created Smokey Bear) that cover Prehistoric Forests, Caddo Indians, Papermaking in the South, 1940's Lumbering, and Forest Appreciation. Each diorama is accompanied by a taped narration. Other exhibits include the Forest Wood Art Gallery, chainsaw carvings, a 100 year old log cabin from the Kiamichi Mountains, and traditional woodworking tools dating from the earliest tools used in the harvesting of timber from the mountains. The Forest Heritage Center is the site of the Kiamichi Owa-Chito Art Show and photography show in June and the Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show in November. The Museum is on Highway 259A, near Mountain Fork River. Parking is available in front of the museum and across the street in a lot. Open 365 days a year from 8 am to 5 pm.
- Beaves Bend Wildlife Museum ($7/adult, $4/child, $6/senior citizen) features wildlife dioramas of habitat settings around Oklahoma and the surrounding region, as well as an "Out of Africa" exhibit. Dioramas include mounted wildlife and sounds with animals like bear, elk, fox, elephants, zebras, and more. The Museum is located at 6594 N. US Hwy 259 Broken Bow, Ok 74728. Hours are Monday - Saturday 9 am to 5 pm.
- Jefferson Gardner Mansion ($5/adult, $3/child age 6-11) is a 1884 built, two-story home of Choctaw Chief Jefferson Gardner. The privately owned museum includes the area’s history from Indian artifacts dating back to prehistoric times, to items from the pioneer days when those venturing west came upon the area. As of the time of this writing, the museum is temporarily closed till June 8, 2022 so we recommend calling them before venturing there. The Museum is located at 6745 US-70, Broken Bow, OK 74728. The summer hours are Wednesday-Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.
- Wheelock Academy Museum is in the refurbished LeFlore Halla of the former Native American girl's boarding school originally founded in 1832. The museum's exhibits include information about the school and the lives of its students, through its collection of many historic photographs, personal items, and unique artifacts. The Wheelock Academy Historic Site includes the grounds and the surviving buildings of the boarding school for Choctaw youth that was in operation from 1832-1955. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a National Historic Landmark, and has been on America's Most Endangered Places list. One of the buildings at the site is also the home of Oklahoma's oldest church. The Museum is located at 1733 Wheelock Rd, Millerton, OK 74750. Hours are Monday - Friday 8 am - 4:30 pm.
- McCurtain County Veteran's Memorial Museum (free admission) is operated by the local American Legion, and is run solely on donations. When the Vietnam Moving Wall came to the area for Idabel’s centennial celebration, the amount of memorabilia being donated from veterans of McCurtain County was overwhelming. Acknowledging the need for their own place to honor local veterans, the McCurtain County Veterans’ Memorial Museum opened its doors in 2005. Inside, you’ll find the stories of local veterans told through pictures and other numerous artifacts spread across the 4,000-square-foot enclosure. The museum also features four sprawling acres dedicated to outdoor monuments in memory of the Nation’s most notable conflicts from WWI through the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The museum is located at 401 NW 16th St, Idabel, Oklahoma 74745.
Did you know "Aiukli" means "beautiful" in the Choctaw language? It is nod to the Choctaw native indians that settled in the area. Aiukli is pronounced eye-yuke-lee.
The red pins are the Aiukli Cabins. The blue pins are the museums.