The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was created to help save and provide a place for some of the old-wests greatest symbols; the bison, elk, and the Texas long horn. Mass hunting of the bison and later the elk decimated their numbers so much that by the early 1900’s 59,000 acres were set aside by President William Mckinley as the Wichita Forest Reserve. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt added some more land to the reserve and changed its status to a game preserve. Two years later the American buffalo was reintroduced and they have thrived in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Karen and I like to go to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge at least a couple times a year. It is a wonderful place to see wildlife, hike, to take pictures, and just enjoy the great outdoors. There is just something about going out into the wild and seeing wildlife and hiking among them that makes for a great day. I have always been a big fan of watching wildlife I think it comes from when at a real young age my family took a vacation to Yellowstone National Park, that did it for me. While the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge can never compare to a place like Yellowstone, it does set the standards for a National Wildlife Refuge in terms of size, history, numbers of animals, and just how well it is taken care of.
Some of the highlights of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge are driving up Mount Scott and seeing the view of the refuge, visiting the wonderful visitor center that explains the refuge, hiking the fifteen miles of well marked designated trails, and watching the many animals that call this place home. The refuge also has many different lakes that people can fish at and use hand powered boats on. Karen and I mainly come to the refuge to enjoy the outdoors, hike, and see the wildlife.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides habitat to more than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species. It is a wonderful place to see a variety of wildlife. The refuge maintains a bison herd of 650, 700 elk, and 300 longhorns. There is also a large group of white tail deer that live in the refuge, but probably the most entertaining are the four colonies of prairie dogs that live in the Wichita Refuge. Besides the big game animals and prairie dogs Karen and I have also seen otters, beaver, coyotes, lizards, and a large variety of birds at our visits to the refuge.
If you visit make sure you stop by the visitor center and watch the short video about the making of the refuge. The visitor center also has many educational areas that explain the habitat and wildlife of the park. Karen and I have never come across any refuge workers who were not helpful or well informed. The Refuge Visitor Center also has several dioramas of taxidermy animals that live in the refuge, and a nice little gift shop that has the usual souvenirs, books, and other information about the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Our favorite time to visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is in the fall usually at the end of September during the Elk rut. This is when the bulls will compete and form harems which are groups of female elk also known as cows. It is pretty neat to hear the bull elk bugling or hear the clash of their antlers. Though there are around 700 of them they are pretty elusive. Sometimes when we go we will see dozens of them in the refuge but just last weekend while we were there for the day we did not see any at all. Despite the fact that Karen and I did not get to see all the animals that we wanted to it was still a great day and we really enjoyed it.
If you are ever in southwestern Oklahoma and you have some time on your hands then we highly recommend visiting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is well worth the drive just for the abundance of things to do and see there.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Located about 25 Miles Northwest from Lawton, Oklahoma
Cost as of 2013 is free
For more information visit their website at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/wichitamountains/
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