Apr 17, 2023
Did the Vikings have a Sooner connection?
Experience fascinating history and scenic nature at once with a visit to Heavener Runestone Park. This dynamic attraction in southeastern Oklahoma is the site of the annual Heavener Runestone Viking Festival, thanks to its unique history.
Opened in 1970, this park is centered on a Swedish-inscribed runestone found in the 1920s. However, according to oral history, the runestone was actually discovered in the 1830s by a Choctaw hunting party. Several ideas have been proposed to explain the origin of the inscriptions. Some claim that the runes document Viking exploration of southeastern Oklahoma in about 1000 A.D., while others suggest the runes were carved in the early 1700s. See the stone for yourself on Poteau Mountain just outside the town's limits.
This 55-acre park also offers group shelters for picnics, picnic tables, outdoor grills, comfort stations, amphitheater, playground, campsites, hiking and educational programs about the Runestone. Be sure to stop by the gift shop and enhance your experience at the interpretative center with educational information.
Located in Le Flore County, Heavener is situated on State Highway 128 and on U.S. Highway 59/270, approximately twelve miles south of Poteau, the county seat. Lying within the former Choctaw Nation, Heavener is named for Joseph H. Heavener, who arrived in 1877. Prior to the town's christening as Heavener, the area was known by several different names, including Prairie of the Tall Grass, Choctaw City, Prairie View, Long Prairie, and Grand Prairie.
Good land drew farmers to the area and assisted in Heavener's growth. In 1885 a cotton gin and gristmill were built, and soon other businesses began moving in. Heavener expanded because of transportation access. After the Kansas City Southern Railway purchased the rail line in 1900, in 1910 the company established a roundhouse, making Heavener a division point. As a result, the town grew. In that year the first bank opened. In 1910 the population was 780, and by 1911 Heavener had two banks, two newspapers, and all of the amenities of a growing city. The population jumped to 1,850 in 1920.
In 1970, when Oklahoma officials dedicated the nearby Heavener Runestone State Park, the population was 2,566.
Also discussed: Onlyinokshow, Travelok, House Bill 1027, KFOR and Governor Kevin Stitt.
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