Wichita Mountains Refuge

We’ve been in Oklahoma for a few weeks now, and in the midst of unpacking and settling down Jay had a 10 day vacation. We spent most of that time in search of furniture and taking care of business. But we did have plenty of time to explore the area!

Jay had been to Fort Sill for leadership training, and I flew down to attend his graduation. The one thing I remembered about the area was that there were lots of hills. I didn’t realize that Fort Sill sits at the base of a bonafide mountain range.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

rocky hills

I wanted to take a drive through the Wichita mountains to show the kids, and so I did some research into what route we should take. I was surprised to discover that much of the area makes up the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The park is free to visit and offers a visitor’s center, hiking trails, fishing, limited camping, and more. It is home to a herd of bison, as well as long-horn cattle, elk, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer.

We took a drive over to the visitor’s center and took a look around. We also asked the rangers what trail they recommended for a family, as some of the trails are pretty “wild” and not marked.

Learning about armadillos

Learning about armadillos

The center has a nice collection of educational displays. It even has a theater where you can watch presentations.

My little botanist

But – we wanted to get outside!

View from the visitor's center

View from the visitor’s center

We took a drive around the park looking for the bison herd. We didn’t find any that day, but we did see some longhorn cattle. One was walking right along the roadside – with no fence in between us! I didn’t get a picture because my ipod was in the back of the van.

hiking the path

Hiking – In Oklahoma?

We chose a shorter trail, about 1/2 mile, near French Lake. The trail was narrow and we had to step over a lot of overgrowth. We also had to climb up rocks. The path took us to the top of one of the hills that overlook the area, without being too much of a hike for the kids.

View from the top

View from the top

The whole climb took us probably 1 1/2 hours. We took our time and stopped to look at the pretty rocks, wildlife, and plants.

orange fungus

painted rocks

rock and flower

lizard

The whole area was gorgeous, and if it weren’t so hot outside we would have stayed a lot longer.

We are definitely planning a trip back in the fall – and I am determined to see the bison herd!

girls at the top

At the end of our hike, we cooled off with ice cubes from the cooler and drove around the lake where we saw geese and ducks.

Jay and I had fun wondering how hard this area was to travel back before roads, when people used horses and covered wagons. I know my great-grandmother came to Oklahoma as a small child when her parents had staked a claim in the new territory. I don’t think they ever came this far South, but it’s still hard to imagine living in a covered wagon in this heat!!

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3 Responses to Our First Field Trip In Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains!

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Welcome home! I remember vividly the reverse culture shock when we returned from Japan. It took six months to a year to fully reintegrate. How exciting to be in a state where your great great grandmother was a pioneer!

  2. Kathy Gossen says:

    Welcome to Oklahoma! Now that we are in the same state we seriously need to meet up. My in-laws live in Corn. LOL. If you’ve figured out where that is yet you are well on your way to becoming an Okie. Enjoyed looking at your view of the Wichita Mountains. 😉

  3. Girlie says:

    I love reading your articles. I am like a student in a classroom, too, learning about your experiences as a family. Thank you for sharing these to the world. Good luck!

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