Preserves designated as part of scenic byways
Tue, Mar 24 2009 at 3:17 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The 36,700-acre Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Osage County is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is one of the premiere conservancy preserves in the country. It is noted for its scenic vistas of rolling Flint Hills tallgrass prairie, dotted with 2,500 bison grazing contentedly. The preserve is included as part of the Osage Nation Heritage Trail, which runs along US Highway 60 from Bartlesville, through Pawhuska and on to Ponca City.
The 1,600-acre preserve atop Black Mesa is owned by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, but the land includes conservation deed restrictions created by The Nature Conservancy when it transferred the property to the state. TNC cooperates with the state agency in the ecological management of the preserve. The stunning visual impact of the mesa, both from below and from the summit of the flat-topped volcanic remnant belies the unique assemblage of plants and animals that live in this dry ecosystem. Pronghorn, bighorn sheep, Texas horned lizards, red-lipped plateau lizards, pinyon jays and golden eagles have all been seen here. Black Mesa is included in the Cimarron Heritage Trail of the far western state panhandle that traverses from Keyes to Kenton on US Highway 64 and then State Highway 325.
The Scenic Byways Council is composed of several federal and state agencies and community organizations, headed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the University of Oklahoma Outreach. These two newly designated Oklahoma Scenic Byways join several others in the state and all are eligible for consideration as National Scenic Byways. The Byways program is an official Oklahoma Centennial Celebration project.
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.