GPS Coordinates: 35.997521, -94.897183
Nearest Town: Tahlequah, OK
One of my favorite aspects of living in Northeast Oklahoma and Tahlequah in general are the outdoor activities that are still generally well-kept secrets in the area. These are well-kept locations mostly due to the lack of an active population, lack of awareness, and lack of access to these areas. These factors, in addition to conservation efforts by The Nature Conservancy, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife have helped to preserve some of these areas from over use, vandalism, and littering.
The bathtub rocks are just a few miles northeast of Tahlequah and border the Nickle Preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy. The bathtub rocks are technically a part of D4569 RD (Oakdale DR) and a car with decent clearance is suggested if you plan on continuing down the road to either HWY 62 or HWY 10(my Honda Accord made it across with minimal undercarriage scraping). This destination also makes for a great gravel bike ride out of town and can be linked with several different loops around the nature preserve.
If continuing to HWY 10, you will pass by the previous location of historic Combs Bridge. The remains of the old bridge can still be seen on either shore of the Illinois River.
Video courtesy of Wright Real Estate
The bathtub rocks have been carved by a creek flowing over them for centuries and the result is smooth slides and tubs that make for perfect swimming and summer lounging. The local crowd can fill up the tubs on the weekends so plan to arrive early and enjoy the sounds of the water and the nature of nearby Nickle Preserve in solitude. My travel companion and I spent a little over an hour at “The Tubs” and saw nearly 15 people who stayed an average of roughly 10 minutes each.
When flowing, the creek meanders to the Illinois River and provides several deep pools deeper into the woods. I advise bringing along some water shoes to enjoy the creek further into the woods. Large boulders and over-hanging trees make for a scenic walk along/through the water.
Although the tubs do not provide a full day of activity, it is an excellent stop on a series of dirt roads that meander through the foothills of the Ozarks that surround the Illinois River. Sites such as the Nickel Preserve and Goat’s Bluff are scattered along the riverside and provide several opportunities for stopping and enjoying the beauty of the Illinois River Basin whether on foot, by bike, or in a vehicle. Please research private property boundaries, I am not responsible for you breaking the law.
The bathtub rocks area is one of my favorites in Tahlequah for it’s pure, natural beauty and the evidence left behind of thousands of years of weathering from the flowing water.
This post is a classic from the archives of the Okienomad’s travels. It was originally posted to a different blog, but has been updated here with more complete information. If you enjoyed our post, please look around the rest of the website. We have images and stories from Oklahoma as well as all over the United States and Canada. We are on social media as well @okienomads on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for reading and God bless!