Stories in Oklahoma

Why do we protect Bathtub Rocks?

Conserving one of Oklahoma's most pristine water sources.

There’s nothing like taking a break on a hot summer day and cooling down in the spring-fed water flowing over smooth rocks shaped perfectly by mother nature. I bet you know where I’m talking about, right? Bathtub Rocks. We are so proud to have this incredible and unique place at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve.

However, things have gotten out of control. From pollution to trespassing, we have seen an increase in disrespect for the area.  

In our efforts to allow continued public access to Bathtub Rocks, we are asking for your help. Please visit respectfully and pick up after yourself.

State Director

Who Owns This Area and Why

Bathtub Rocks is a part of the J.T. Nickel Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve which is 17,000 acres of privately-owned pristine landscape along the Illinois River. The land owner, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is a non-profit conservation organization that conserves over 100,000 acres in Oklahoma. TNC is not a governmental agency and Bathtub Rocks is not a state park.

Bathtub Rocks, which is a part of Cedar Creek, has water flowing over it that is considered to be one of the state’s most pristine water sources. Our scientists and partner scientists conduct water quality tests along with species surveys each year to ensure that this area remains clean and unpolluted for both nature and people.

As a friendly neighbor and active member of the Tahlequah community, we provide access to Bathtub Rocks for the local public. We also allow access to our three hiking trails on the preserve. All other areas (including above and below stream at Bathtub Rocks) are closed to the public due to sensitive wildlife habitat and restoration projects in progress.

Our Work on the Preserve

The mission of TNC is to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. Throughout the state, we engage in various conservation projects to improve the quality of our natural resources, such as freshwater. The foothills of the Ozarks is an area of interest for our mission as it supplies freshwater to nearby residents and critical habitat to a diverse group of plants and animals. Some of these plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. 

We conduct prescribed burns at the preserve to control invasive plants, encourage native plant and tree renewal, and reduce risk for catastrophic wildfires by eliminating leaf litter buildup in the forest. In 2005, we reintroduced a native grazer, elk, to the landscape that had been absent  for more than 150 years.

Bathtub Rocks at J.T. Nickel Preserve.
Bathtub Rocks Cedar Creek flowing over the carved indentations in the rock. © TNC

Visiting With Respect

Being outdoors and connecting with nature is critical to maintain appreciation for our amazing natural resources or to just take a break from the daily routine.

However, what was once a local gem, is now a tourist attraction and a cesspool of trash we have to clean up daily. People from all over the state and some from out of state are making the trek to experience Bathtub Rocks. The amount of litter, vandalism and other illegal activity has caused great strain on our staff and the species who depend upon this habitat.

We want to allow the public access to remain connected to nature and to enjoy nature’s beauty while appreciating the historical and conservation value of the area. Not to further its demise.

In our efforts to allow continued public access to Bathtub Rocks, we are asking for your help. If you appreciate the area and want it to stay open, please visit respectfully and pick up after yourself and encourage others to do so as well. Leave the preserve in a better condition than when you found it.

If you observe illegal activity, including littering, drug use, or trespassing beyond the Bathtub Rocks immediate area, please contact 911 immediately. Help us protect Cedar Creek, Bathtub Rocks and the J.T. Nickel Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve.

Litter at Bathtub Rocks Bathtub Rocks is a popular area at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve. Please pack out what you pack in.