Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, in Oklahoma, is an outstanding find! I spent 2 days exploring every aspect that caught my eye on this 59,000+ acre refuge, and I only barely scratched the surface!
The history of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is rich with tales of days gone by, from Comanche hiding out to hidden treasures of Spanish gold to hidden loot from the James gang.
The present refuge camp grounds, Camp Doris, use to be a mining community at the beginning of the 1900s. Apparently it was quite a hot spot as even Theodore Roosevelt spent time here! The entire time I was at my camp site, I could hear turkey, ducks, and coyotes in the near distance. For me, is was music to sleep by. If you prefer a more “full service” camp ground, read here for another great option.
While the hiking is amazing, and endless, and I will get to that in a bit, I could have watched, and photographed, the wildlife for days! There are bison, deer, elk, turkey, prairie dogs, river otters, burrowing owl, etc.
Each animal has a great re-introduction story, especially the bison. I really enjoyed learning why the Texas longhorn cattle are there. While longhorn are no longer a significant breed in the cattle industry, they are kept on the refuge to preserve an icon in the history of cattle. For more history, and information about the refuge go here.
Who doesn’t love to watch ducks and geese in their own habitat? I laugh every time I see their little butts pop up when they put their faces under water. Every photographer loves to catch a bird in flight, also!
So, who wants to talk hiking? I cannot stress enough how there truly is something for everyone here, in the way of hiking and adventuring! Do you want to just take a stroll down a very well maintained path and see nature? It is there. Do you want to push yourself with a very difficult challenge and see some outstanding views? Yep. You can climb and traverse until your legs are rubbery, and your heart is content! While I did not exhaust any one trail, as I was just trying to get a feel for as much of the refuge as I could, I did see beautiful things and felt completely submerged in my surroundings.
I hiked the majority of the Jed Johnson Tower trail. (0.5 miles) This is an easy trail that goes along Jed Johnson Lake and then up to the tower. There is one spot, on the last leg up that is a bit loose, and if you were to fall, you might end up in the lake below. It is said that the tower is haunted by a woman who drove her car off into the lake, and you can sometimes hear steps going up the tower, and even screams across the lake. It is also said that the woman also haunts Jed Johnson Lake dam! I was at the dam as the sun was going down, and Hendrix didn’t seem to be too concerned!
Speaking of dams, this was my favorite. It is the dam at Quannah Parker Lake. Hendrix and I watched the sun go down right next to it and it was a beautiful sunset! There are 13 lakes on the refuge, that serve as a water source for the wildlife, and also for fishing. A person who enjoys fishing could spend days trying all the options!
While I stepped onto several other trails while at the refuge, my grand finale was hiking part of the Charon Gardens trails. I started my hike from the trailhead by the Treasure Lake Job Corps. When
starting a hike from this trailhead, you immediately find yourself on massive amounts of boulders and are rewarded with fantastic views.
*It should be said here that I was informed post visit that leash requirements are strongly enforced.
I headed off to the left onto a trail that dropped down to a creek crossing. I have to say that I saw no trail markers so not exactly sure I was actually on a trail at some point, heading down to the creek. That did not stop me from having quite the adventure. After I crossed the creek, I saw no trail, but it was very doable to traverse in almost any direction. So, I looked around to get my orientation, using terrain markers to pin point my way back out of the mountains, and just started climbing. This hike is one of my favorite types; in that it just keeps enticing you to keep going, to see whatever there is to see when you get to the top of the next climb. It would take countless outings to cover the majority of this area and I do intend to spend as much time as I can getting to know this amazing place better! While I have tried, in this post, to give you a good idea of how awesome it is here, I know that there is so SO much more to be seen and found! From reading other posts and seeing other pictures on Facebook, there are caves in these mountains and many, many more trails to hike! Until next time, I will dream of seeing you again Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge!