The new primitive trail at Muskogee’s Three Forks Harbor has a lot to offer nature lovers. The winding dirt and sand paths take hikers through Oklahoma native trees and wild flowers that are alive with butterflies and skippers. Plus, there are phenomenal bird watching opportunities.
A primitive trail is one that is unpaved and maintained only enough to keep it open. There are holes, rocks, and a few tree trunks in the path to walk around, so sturdy shoes or a mountain bike are required.
Sometimes called the Port-to-Fort Trail, it is opened up 2-miles so far, and will be 4.5 miles long by next summer. When complete, it will end at the historic Ft. Gibson landing where steamboats loaded and unloaded until the railroads replaced them.
Lewis McLemore, Port of Muskogee operations manager, said that the idea for the trail came out of 1999 planning sessions. Then, in 2003 the trail’s GPS coordinates were established and a 50-year Corps of Engineers lease was signed. A rough trail was cleared in 2006.
This year, Joel Everett, special events coordinator for Muskogee Parks and Recreation Dept., and members of the Muskogee Running Club volunteered to re-clear and widen the overgrown trail. Mark Ging, Steve Mashburn, Zach Hill, Darin Parks and Everett worked with McLemore and his staff to clean up the trail from the harbor to the Grand and Arkansas Rivers.
McLemore said, “The Port has spent thousands, fishing groups have pitched in, parks department employees and running club members have all contributed. Together, we have removed many truckloads of trash and debris off the trail.”
Recently Sadler students held a Halloween running event and other events are planned.
“Next spring there will be a modified iron man race,” said McLemore. “The three parts include swimming the harbor, running the trail and canoeing back to the harbor.”
The trail is open for walking, running, hiking, fishing and mountain biking. Motorized vehicles such as 4-wheelers and jeeps are not permitted.
Individuals and groups of volunteers are needed to continue the trail’s development.
“You can’t get trucks in there but if I had volunteers, it could be cleaned out more,” McLemore said. “We would get a dumpster for the trash and take some dirt in to do fill work.”
Besides hiking and fishing, the entire area is ideal for bird watching.
Avid birder, Jeri McMahon said, “At this time of year you could see eight Sparrow species, plus Dark-eyed Juncos. They all arrived in OK the last couple of weeks. Also look for Bald Eagles, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Flickers, and Woodpeckers. The river itself might produce Ring-billed Gulls or Double-crested Cormorants.”
In places, the sand and gravel that have been dredged out of the rivers make up part the trail. The untamed nature of the area means that wildlife such as lizards, deer and raccoons live in the surrounding woods.
McLemore said, “During the Civil War there were no trees at all in that area so the trees are less than a hundred years old. Now hikers will see oak, elm, cottonwood, willows and massive sycamores that three men could not reach around.”
The Tulsa Running Club, Muskogee Running Club and Cherokee Nation’s Wings use the trail and work on it.
“The activities at Three Forks Harbor are quality of life improvements for Muskogee area residents,” McLemore said
If you would like to hold an event, organize or participate in volunteering, or talk about the potential of the Three Forks Harbor Trail, call Lewis McLemore at 918-869-8347 or Joel Everett at 918-684-6302 Ext 28.
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