Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - 02:13
Roughly 60,000 acres, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is definitely an area with 'replay value'.
The team at Adventure Crew has put together a great video:
I try to make it every summer, and I always come across something new and interesting. On my first visit, I saw the endangered black-capped vireo (right). This bird has suffered from habitat destruction in the form of fire supression, depriving it of the low woody cover it requires. A subsequent return for a Field Botany field trip led me to a disjunct population of bigtooth maple (considered by some botanists to be a subspecies of sugar maple) occurring along the southern edge of a canyon, hundreds of miles from the nearest wild population.
Also present are bison, descended from 15 individuals shipped by train from the New York Zoological Park in 1907. The herd flourished, and you can view them easily from a vehicle or on foot (not too close though!). You might even see one taking a dust bath. On a hike we flushed some feral hogs, and moments later saw 2 of the refuge's 800 elk in a valley, which were once absent from the area for 80 years until a successful reintroduction. Other prairie species present include prairie dogs and burrowing owls.
The refuge is also a hotspot for rock climbers. For those not feeling quite as adventurous, a modern road leads to the top of Mount Scott, providing an excellent view. A stop to Meers is a must for any visitor, their longhorn burgers are amazing! You can also take a peek at the seismograph in the restaurant, installed in 1985 to monitor the Meers fault. The fault is extremely unique in that it is the only surface-breaking fault east of the Rocky Mountains and is visible from the air. Geologists are concerned it might be the source of Oklahoma's "big one".
The refuge is about 100 miles from Oklahoma City (a drive a little under 2 hours), providing a taste of the mountains without having to buy a plane ticket to the Rockies.