By Laci Jones
As one of Oklahoma’s original seven state parks, Roman Nose State Park has a history that sets it apart from other state parks, according to park manager, Kyle Bernis.
“The namesake of Roman Nose State Park is from a Cheyenne-Arapaho chief named Henry Roman Nose,” Bernis explained. “Roman Nose was a very well-respected warrior chief. As he got older, he was a big proponent in the Native American community as far as education is concerned.”
At one time, the chief owned the land where the state park sits, which was allotted to him by the government. After many years of owning the land, Roman Nose sold the land to the state.
“Now, there is some confusion as to how that happened,” Bernis explained. “Some stories I’ve heard say that he sold it willingly, and other stories say that wasn’t the case. Either way, it ended up in the hands of the government.”
Located in Blaine County, Okla., the state park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, opening in 1937 as a part of the New Deal program set by President Franklin Roosevelt. The land is owned by the city of Watonga, Okla., but it is leased to the state to operate as a state park, he added.
“It has kind of evolved over the years,” the park manager began. “You can still see all the original construction including the bathhouse by the pool as well as a lot of the steps in our trail ways. You can notice the original rock that they used—dolomite and gypsum that is native to this area—in their construction.”
Dolomite and gypsum were also used in the rental pavilion by the spring area at the state park, he added. The state park has two spring-fed lakes, Lake Boecher and Lake Watonga. These lakes are a haven for fisherman, specifically bass, catfish and crappie, among other varieties of fish. Vistors can rent canoes, kayaks and paddleboats to enjoy the two Oklahoma lakes. The springs that feed Lake Boecher and Watonga are also a water source to the area.
“It’s a draw because you can see the way it was built,” Bernis said. “The rocks around it form a focal point that showcases the area and people really like to see that.”
Roman Nose State Park is also known for its hiking opportunities, featuring approximately eight miles of trails. Bernis said they are in the process of adding new paved hiking trails to the state park. Visitors can hike along the trails and look out over a canyon at Inspiration Point.
“[Inspiration Point] is one of the higher sections on the park,” he explained. “When you get out there, you can see over the whole canyon. It’s really a nice place that people enjoy.”
The state park also features a swimming pool, several playgrounds, riding stables and an 18-hole golf course. Visitors can reserve one of the many RV sites, primitive campsites and cabins. The state park also has a lodge featuring 22 rooms and a restaurant. The lodge was constructed in 1956 and has since been renovated, Bernis added.
Roman Nose State Park hosts several events throughout the year; the most well-known is the annual Trout Derby, which takes place in March. The three-day event is put on by the Watonga Chamber of Commerce and the friends of Roman Nose State Park. Tagged trout are released into the lake, and prizes are distributed among different age groups for the most trout caught.
The state park also partakes in a Halloween trick or treat event and the first day hike on New Year’s Day.
Roman Nose State Park provides interpretive educational programming throughout the year, but Bernis said he hopes to bring more of the cultural aspect of the area to the state park in the future.
“I’ve worked at a lot of parks in my career, and I can tell you that this one is different and special because of the history it has,” Bernis said. “The cultural aspect of this park, being the namesake of Roman Nose, combined with the natural beauty of the canyon and terrain that is not typically seen in Oklahoma makes this a special place.”
For additional information about Roman Nose State Park including reservations and events, call 580-623-7281.