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The Trail of Tears, an all-consuming flood, and a taste for moonshine all play into the history of Hochatown, a small community in southeastern Oklahoma. Named for a member of the Choctaw tribe who arrived here on the Trail of Tears in 1833, for decades the area served as a quiet hamlet for farming, hunting, and trapping before being taken over by a lumber and coal company at the turn of the 20th century. The lumber supply dwindled in the 1920s and ’30s, and in the throes of Prohibition, the town became famous for its moonshine. But by the 1950s, most locals had gone, and Hochatown was essentially a ghost town — which is how it came to be flooded without consequence with the construction of the Broken Bow Lake dam. A few buildings were moved to higher ground, and the rest of the area was engulfed by water. Its successor, present-day Hochatown, was established a mile west, and maintains its original church. Thanks to a growing number of visitors and a crop of luxury cabins, the new Hochatown is enjoying a revival of its early reputation for outdoor recreation amid the beautiful McCurtain County pines.
Though there are many airfields in McCurtain County, the closest official airport to Hochatown is Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM), a two-hour drive north of town. Fort Smith serves connecting flights from Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW), which is a 3.25-hour drive southwest. Due to the small nature of the community, taxi cabs and rideshares are virtually nonexistent, so having your own car is a must. If you’re road-tripping from elsewhere, consider bringing your bicycle. Biking the trails in and around Beavers Bend State Park is a wonderful way to explore the scenery.
It’s been said that if you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it will change. And while that’s true in some of the plains areas, Hochatown is a little bit more predictable given its proximity to the nearby Kiamichi and Ouachita Mountains. Summers can be very hot and muggy, with temperatures peaking in late July in the mid-90s Fahrenheit, and dropping to the 70s after sunset. Winters, on the other hand, are cold and wet, with temperatures averaging in the 40s. Rain is heaviest in fall and spring, averaging 5 or 6 inches a month, but come winter, it seldom translates into snow.
There are few outdoor activities that you can’t do in this 1,300-acre park, sometimes referred to as Beavers Bend Resort Park. Beyond the requisite hiking, biking, and camping, Beavers Bend is best known for its fishing: The largest recorded brown trout in the state — a whopping 17.4 pounds — was caught in the Lower Mountain Fork River, and there are plenty more where it came from.
For bird watching and waterfowl hunting, it doesn’t get much better than this corner of McCurtain County, just an hour south of Hochatown. Spanning 5,800 acres, there are more than 270 varieties of birds among the prairies and replanted hardwood areas here, as well as a waterfowl refuge. You may even spot a black bear or golden eagle.
Though nearby Antlers, Oklahoma (1 hour west), bills itself as the deer capital of the world, the entire region of Hochatown, Broken Bow, and surroundings is reputed for its wealth of buck hunting, as well as other wild game. Dozens of public hunting areas and wildlife management regions are designated for hunting in McCurtain County, with guided hunts available.