Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Western Oklahoma is where the west begins. The hardwood forests of the eastern part of the state give way to the Great Plains. And in southwest Oklohoma, you'll even find a biologic outpost of the Rocky Mountains at Wichita National Wildlife Refuge. One of the oldest and most popular refuges in the system, Wichita covers an area of almost 60,000 acres of rugged granite mountains, oak forests, and mixed grass prairies. These unspoiled lands provide excellent habitat and protection for herds of bison and elk, and for numerous other native and migratory species.
Bison are the big draw in this refuge. The refuge was set aside for them in 1901, at a time when the species were almost extinct. The thriving herd here was started from a nucleus of 15 donated by the New York Zoological Society, and released in 1907. Today hundreds graze near the roadways. Traffic stops to see these enormous creatures that can approach a ton in weight, and can stand six feet at the shoulder.
You may come to see the buffalo, but once here you'll be awed by the scenery. Plan time to stick around and take it in.
For the best of Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, try these GORP picks:
Hike Dog Run Hollow Loop Trail
The 2 mile Elk Mountain Trail leads around the west end of Elk Mountain and meanders from Sunset Picnic Area to Post Oak Lake parking area. This trail takes the hiker through the center of the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area. The 5,700 acres Charons Garden Wilderness Area consists of rock-studded mixed-grass prairie lands, cross-timbers type forested drainages and granite mountains. Lichens clothe the granite rocks, grasses range from short-grass species to lush stands of bluestem, and forests of oak and juniper grow along stream courses. The terrain is dominated by Elk Mountain with precipitous south and southwest slopes sharply faulted and cut by steep chimneys, many filled with a jumble of boulders. A side trail from Sunset leads to the top of Elk Mountain. Trailheads at Sunset Picnic Area and Post Oak Lake are marked by trail maps and information signs.
Climb Crab Eyes
The Wichita Mountains are one of the finest rock climbing areas in the southwest. It is one of the few granite climbing areas in this part of the country. The refuge offers high-quality granite, multi-pitch routes, and wilderness setting. Classic destinations include Mt. Scott, the Narrows, Elk Mountain, Crab Eyes, and Lost Dome. You'll find hundreds of quality routes in the 5.6 to 5.11 difficulty range. A majority of these were done in traditional, ground-up style. And, while there have been a number of"sport" type routes developed at several areas over the last ten years, the refuge remains predominantly a traditional climbing area.
There are 13 Public Use Lakes on the Refuge which provide ample fishing opportunities for both bank and boat anglers. Largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish are likely to be caught in Refuge lakes. Only an Oklahoma State fishing license is required to fish on the Refuge. Fish may be taken with poles and lines or rods and reels. Hand-powered boats are permitted only on Jed Johnson, Rush, Quanah Parker, Elmer Thomas, and French Lakes. Elmer Thomas has been stocked with both Florida and Northern largemouth bass, as well as smallmouth bass and a variety of other fish species.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Rt. 1, Box 448
Indiahoma, OK 73552
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication