Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park is located about nine miles north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, on Highway 259 and four miles east on U.S. Route 259A. Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains and bordered by Broken Bow Lake, the 3,482 acres contain the tree-lined Mountain Fork River, a wonderful location for autumn photography. There are hills alive with color, trout streams and some of the friendliest wildlife around. The roads wind through the park, and 259A makes a U-shaped route through the area. Along the river there are campgrounds with astounding views of colorful trees, including pine, hardwood and cypress that dangle their roots in the water. Beavers Bend has cabins that are available for rent, horse stables and many hiking trails through the hills. It's not necessary to get off the beaten path for those who don't enjoy hiking, however. There are also kayak and paddleboat rentals, river float trips and a cute, photogenic little fly shop.
The climate is usually very mild, and you'll be comfortable in a sweatshirt. I hope for overcast skies, but even when it's sunny, it's beautiful. Mornings are often misty, with fog in the hills. Late in the afternoon, the sun lights up the riverbanks with "wow factor" color. Early morning is nice for foggy, misty shots all through the park, but mostly from the top of the dam across from Broken Bow Lake. I like to start at about dawn to watch for deer on the roads at the second 259A sign when coming from Broken Bow.
There are several areas I like to shoot, from the top of the dam to the Kayak Shack, Beavers Bend Fly Shop, the Sno Cone Shack area and even just up the hill from the fly shop. During the day, the trout streams are fun. Take the road that leads down at the west end of the dam, and the Beaver Lodge trail area is just off the road. The deer love to pose early in the mornings and just before sunset in the evenings. Additionally, down below the dam to the campground area, you'll find nice views of the river, but Fern Campground is my favorite. Warning: You don't have a lot of room to move around; there are small paths every few yards that go down to the water's edge, but there isn't a lot of standing room once you get down there. It's definitely worth the tight fit when that afternoon light hits those trees, though. I've used everything from a Sony DSC-F717 to a Canon EOS T3i Rebel. You don't really need a lot of specialized gear. If you have them, you should bring a polarizer, a wide-angle lens and a graduated ND filter.
Beaver Lodge Trail follows a trout stream with lots of small waterfalls and great opportunities to photograph the fishermen who frequent the stream during trout season, which really lasts all year long. The Mountain Fork River is stocked with fish every two weeks by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. During the week, the kayaks are stacked up along the riverbank, making for some nice shots. There's a lodge at Broken Bow Lake where you can rent rooms and enjoy the view of the lake. The best time of the year is autumn. Color changes begin in late October, but I find the first week in November is usually as close to peak color time as you can get. I prefer weekdays since there are fewer people around. Weekends are nice if you're interested in renting kayaks and paddleboats.
Contact: Oklahoma Tourism And Recreation Department, www.travelok.com.