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The Demise of Collings Castle, Oklahoma

A surprise on the southern Oklahoma landscape, the whimsical Collings Castle seemed like a medieval mirage. It was the kind of place you’d expect to find in Europe instead.

Though not exactly ancient, the imposing stone structure has stood its ground for almost a century. But you may want to plan a visit now before it completely loses its battle against time.

Collings Castle has long been mysterious, but we’ll shed some light on an intriguing chapter in Oklahoma’s history.

Let’s crack open the book!

Inside abandoned castle
You don’t have to visit Europe to explore charming castles.

About Collings Castle

Drawing inspiration from Europe, a longtime educator named Dr. Ellsworth Collings built this majestic residence in the 1930s. He and his family didn’t live there full-time but cherished it as their summertime getaway.

We’re not sure why Dr. Collings decided to pattern this second home after the great castles of Europe. We do know that he had a modest upbringing in Missouri and loved reading books. He even authored several himself as he rose professionally from teacher to the University of Oklahoma’s Dean of Education.

He enjoyed entertaining at the castle, with its unbeatable natural setting. While not overly spacious inside, it did have a few sizable rooms. The hallways and entrances were quite narrow, however. That’s because his design followed the form and function of its European counterparts. People built castles with defense in mind. They wanted to keep people out, not invite them in.

Two separate but connected buildings comprised Collings Castle. Visitors also will find the remains of a private chapel on the property, which suggests Dr. Collings’ religious dedication.

Where Is Collings Castle?

The castle site is just south of the city of Davis, which has a population of around 2,700. While many people think of Oklahoma as flat, that’s an unfair description of the state. This area, in particular, lies in the thick of the heavily forested Arbuckle Mountains.

The castle is part of Davis’ biggest calling card, a city-run park that attracts around a quarter of a million visitors annually. Another main attraction is the captivating natural feature that prompted Collings to put his castle there. 

The spectacular Turner Falls is so close you can hear its gushing waters through the castle’s stone walls. The impressive waterfall is the result of two spring-fed creeks merging and then plunging dramatically over a cliff. The official distance of the cascade, 77 feet, ties Turner Falls with another as the tallest waterfall in Oklahoma. 

Why Was Collings Castle Abandoned?

The castle’s original owner passed away in 1970, but his beloved second home remained in the family for years. Eventually, though, his grandson sold it.

Enchanted by the house and location, a series of new owners tried to preserve it but found it too expensive. The upkeep was too costly, so the stately castle sadly fell into disrepair.

The city of Davis has owned the property since 1977. Along with the waterfall, it’s a key attraction at Turner Falls Park.

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Best Hikes Near Collings Castle

The area’s impressive scenery makes you want to get outdoors. We have two solid ideas for places to hike. Both of them are relatively short and easy and in gorgeous surroundings. 

Lake of the Arbuckles View Trail

One of the reasons this out-and-back trail is so popular is right there in the name. Reach the pebbly beach at the end for a soothing view of the Lake of the Arbuckles. Enjoy the view for as long as you want while looking forward to a pleasant walk back.

The terrain is hilly here, though the wide, shady gravel trail is primarily straight, flat, and level. The elevation gain is just 29 feet over the entire length. Not counting the time you linger by the lake, the whole thing should take under 20 minutes, on average. 

Fishing Rock Trail

Another out-and-back trail. Fishing Rock is slightly longer, measuring 1.2 miles from start to finish. It’s curvy, offering lots of different lake views as it winds along the water. 

One big difference is that the trail’s end has water access (through some brush and over some rocks.) Dogs love it, and lots of people do, too. 

This hike also is easy enough for the whole family to enjoy. Chances are you’ll share the space with other walkers and runners and maybe some kids on bikes. You may even encounter some anglers trying their luck at the water’s edge. 

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Man and woman hiking together
Hit the trails after visiting Collings Castle.

Best Camping Near Collings Castle

We have two suggestions if you want to settle in for a bit to explore more of the area. One campground is right at ground zero, while the other is less than ten miles away.

Turner Falls Park

Besides having the castle and waterfall, this 1,500-acre park is a popular camping destination. There are about 500 campsites for tents and RVs, both primitive and with partial hookups. RV sites have concrete pads and water and electricity. The park also has bathrooms, showers, and a community dump station.

Staying here means more time to explore the waterfall, creek, castle grounds, and a network of natural caves. Trails from the campground lead directly to them. The park is open year-round, but, sorry, no pets.

Guy Sandy Campground

Located in Sulphur, Oklahoma, an easy drive to the east, this campground is open from March through September. It’s on the western edge of the Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

This is primitive camping only, with no hookups, but there are restrooms with showers. Sites are first-come, first-served and have a picnic table, fire ring, and grill. The campground has water spigots and pit-style toilets. There is also a dump station.

Explore more of the state with Oklahoma Off the Beaten Path®: A Guide to Unique Places.

Is Collings Castle Worth the Trip?

Much of Collings Castle has fallen into ruin, but it’s still worth seeing while you can. You may even want to raise a toast or a salute to the esteemed Dr. Ellsworth Collings. He was an accomplished man with the gumption and imagination to do something different. 

He built a castle where no one envisioned one, perhaps confounding his neighbors but delighting generations of visitors. While time is running out for his fanciful faux fortress, the surrounding scenery seems eternally beautiful.

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