Okay, so no one (that I know of) has ever referred to Bluestem Falls as Little Victoria except my husband. However, he’s from Zimbabwe and has been to the real Victoria Falls numerous times. He and I have been exploring Oklahoma’s waterfalls this year, and his favorite (by far) so far is Bluestem Falls.
He calls it Little Victoria because it has “water that thunders” the way the Victoria Falls does. It was such a lovely sentiment that I think in my head I will always refer to Bluestem Falls as Oklahoma’s Little Victoria.
Here’s what you need to know to plan your own visit to Bluestem Falls, from hours, to parking, to how to get there!
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Where to Stay in Pawhuska
While you can visit Pawhuska as a day trip from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or Wichita, there’s enough to do here that you can stay overnight or on a long weekend and really dig into all that Pawhuska and Osage County have to offer.
Here are my suggestions for where to stay in each budget category. Recommendations are based on listed prices at the time, but keep in mind they can fluctuate based on availability, so always double-check the linked-to website for pricing for your exact dates.
Best Budget Option (Under $100 a night)
Best Mid-Range Option ($100-200 per night)
For a stay with a cozy appeal, check into the Historic Whiting Hotel Suites, located a tenth of a mile from The Mercantile and the rest of downtown. Rooms feature private balconies, kitchenettes, and kitschy decor. See pictures and availability here.
Best Luxury Option ($200 or more per night)
For a relaxing stay, check into the Frontier Hotel Pawhuska, which offers a sophisticated take on Wild West decor without scrimping on comfort. The rooms are stunning, with a mix of modern and farmhouse style and layers of country fabrics. See pictures and availability here.
Things to Know Before You Visit Bluestem Falls in Pawhuska, Oklahoma
From avoiding wrong information online to knowing where to park, here’s everything you need to know to visit Bluestem Falls!
What is Bluestem Falls?
Bluestem Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Oklahoma. It’s caused by the overflow from Bluestem Lake spilling out into Middle Bird Creek. Because Bluestem Lake is a manmade lake, created in the 1950s for flood control, recreation, and as a secondary water supply for Osage County. Thus the falls themselves aren’t naturally occurring, but are instead the byproduct of water from the lake spilling back into the local creek.
Of course, the fact that nature has turned this manmade project into something so beautiful is a bonus, and it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re going to be in the area!
How to Get to Bluestem Falls: Directions and Tips
While Google Maps is usually pretty good in this part of the state, it lead me astray when trying to get to Bluestem Falls. It also had a note online that Bluestem Falls is permanently closed, which I thought was really strange since a woman in a Facebook group I am in had just posted her pictures from her visit.
Just an FYI, but obviously Bluestem Falls is NOT permanently closed. There’s just something funky going on with Google’s information about the place.
Bluestem Falls Directions
From Highway US-60/ E. Main street, turn right (if you’re leaving Pawhuska) or left (if you’re driving towards Pawhuska) at County Road 4275. There’s a brightly painted house at the corner that I forgot to take a picture of, but you can’t miss it.
Stay on Co Rd 4275 for almost three miles. At one point, there will be a fork in the road at the lake, and Google Maps might tell you to turn left. Don’t. Keep to the right all the way to the falls.
If you do accidentally go left at the lake, you’ll see this sign:
From here, you can turn around and get back to the County Road.
The drive from downtown Pawhuska to Bluestem Falls takes about ten minutes.
Address: Bluestem Falls Co Rd 4275, Pawhuska, OK 74056
The only way to get to Bluestem Falls is by car (though technically you could walk from town). If you don’t have your own car and you’re planning a visit to Pawhuska, I have tips for renting a car in Oklahoma at the bottom of this post.
Parking at Bluestem Falls
There is a big parking lot right by the falls. The parking lot is free. Spaces aren’t really marked, but this won’t be a problem if the falls aren’t crowded. We went on a Saturday evening just before sunset in the middle of March, and we saw maybe ten people during our time there.
When are Bluestem Falls Open?
I cannot find any official closing hours listed anywhere for Bluestem Falls. It may be like the Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska and technically be open twenty-four hours a day. I would be cautious of visiting after dark. The rocks around the falls can get quite slippery, and I would not feel safe walking around here without good lighting to see where I’m stepping.
However, this means you can visit at sunrise and sunset. Just be extra cafeful!
How Long Does It Take to Visit?
We spent about thirty minutes walking around the falls and the area nearby overlooking Middle Bird Creek. Since we did not visit Bluestem Lake, we didn’t get to enjoy the hiking trails here. If you want to come out for an afternoon or a full day, you can!
Note that there aren’t any vendors at the falls, so bring whatever food and drinks you want with you. One thing we didn’t realize while we were there (and I only learned yesterday when editing my photos) is that there are no glass bottles allowed. We did bring a glass bottle and we brought it out with us, so we did not leave it behind. However, if you’re planning ahead, it’s better to bring plastic, cans, or reusable waterbottles.
If you do come in and enjoy a picnic or a day here, take anything you bring back with you. Don’t leave behind trash for someone else to have to clean up. There are reports online of the place being full of trash. It was not while we were there, but don’t leave a mess behind you!
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Bluestem Falls?
There is no ticket to enter Bluestem Falls, and the falls are free to visit! If you will be staying at Bluestem Lake, there are fees associated with camping and boating there.
Tips for Photographing Bluestem Falls
I love taking pictures of waterfalls, and Bluestem Falls is no exception! The area is just stunning. Here are a few tips to make sure you leave with the photos you want.
First, if you’re traveling here with someone, make sure you take each other’s pictures! You don’t want to leave without a picture of you in this beautiful place to help remember your trip!
Second, I think wide-angle shots here work really well. If you have a newer iPhone or Samsung with a wide-angle, use it! If you’re using a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, it would be worth bringing your wide-angle lenses here.
This picture below is just my iPhone 12 pro with the .5 wide-angle setting. If I had brought my Nikon, I would have popped on my 14mm lens.
The reason wide-angle here is so clutch is because there are actually several sections of the waterfalls and it’s one of the best ways to get the entire waterfall in one frame.
Third, use lighting to your advantage! We were there at Golden Hour, and my selfie looks way better because I have good lighting. It’s hiding the bags under my eyes (mostly) as well as creating an overall nice glow!
Finally, use framing! Don’t leave with one hundred pictures of the same angle and same thing. Use the trees and rocks in the area to frame the falls in new and interesting ways so that you leave with pictures that are uniquely yours!
More Pawhuska & Osage County Travel Resources
Heading to Pawhuska? Check out my guide to the best things to do in Pawhuska (as well as the town of Shidler), my guide to visiting the Mercantile, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and my favorite Pawhuska photo spots.
If you’re coming to Pawhuska from Oklahoma City, here are directions to get from OKC to Pawhuska.
What to Pack for a Trip in Oklahoma
Do You Need a Car for Your Trip?
It’s awfully hard to get around Oklahoma without a car. If you need to rent one, I use Discover Cars. You’ll be able to pick up a car at the airport or in your hometown.
Oklahoma Travel Resources
Pin this Guide to Visiting Bluestem Lake Falls for Your Oklahoma Adventures!
Stephanie Craig is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After traveling all over the world, Stephanie moved back to Oklahoma to explore more of her own backyard. Her favorite things to do in Oklahoma include visiting the Blue Whale of Catoosa, the Arcadia Round Barn, and the Talimena Scenic Byway.