Oklahoma City Day Trips: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

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Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge at Sunset
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge at Sunset

In July and August, I spent some time with my family in Oklahoma. While I was there, I went on some daytrips with my brother to explore parts of the state I haven’t spent much time in.

One of the days we went down to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to explore and hopefully capture a rad picture of a bison. This pace is a great day trip from either Oklahoma City.

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Getting There

The trip from Oklahoma City is a little less than two hours, regarless of if you take I-44 or I-35.

Spotted on the road to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Spotted on the road to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Getting In

There’s no admission fees for the refuge. Stop by the Visitor’s Center when you get there for maps and information.

Tip: The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is in southern Oklahoma near the Texas border. It is NOT near Wichita, Kansas

A Longhorn in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
A Longhorn in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

About the Refuge

From their website:

Established in 1901,Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is one of more than 556 refuges throughout the United States managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 59,020 acre refuge hosts a rare piece of the past – a remnant mixed grass prairie, an island where the natural grasslands escaped destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow.

The refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. Texas longhorn cattle also share the refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.

Things to Do

  • There are thirty miles of trails you can hike on your own. There are also tours and events. Check the schedule before you go.
  • Rock Climbing (one of my best friends from high school used to make the trek down to climb a few times a year)
  • With a valid permit, you can hunt and fish
  • Camping (for those who want more than a daytrip)
See also
Why Skyline Drive is My Favorite American Highway

Our Visit

My brother and I had left OKC pretty late in the morning and had made a few other stops, so we got to the Refuge close to dusk. Since my main goal was to photograph the animals, this was a good time to get in. The bison hide a lot during the day, and come out when it cools down.

Driving around during a sunset in the Refuge is a real treat. The wind is sweet, like wild grasses. The sunlight playing off the mountains is gorgeous. And the animals come right out and stand on the edge of the road.

Right away, we spotte a Longhorn in the grass.

Two calves tussling in front of the Visitor's Center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Two calves tussling in front of the Visitor’s Center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

We also spotted two very young longhorn calves fighting, which set off two teenage cattle to start fighting, and that caused two very large cattle to start brawling. Which made me afraid for our car (and a little bit my life). Two large longhorns fighting ten feet from you is kind of a scary thing.

Two adult longhorn cattle fighting in front of our car at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Two adult longhorn cattle fighting in front of our car at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

We drove around more, enjoying the breeze and saw several more groups of longhorn. Unfortunatley, we never spotted the bison I wanted to see. I’ll have to go back next spring when I’m in town and see if I can nab a pic.

Longhorn grazing on the side of the road
Longhorn grazing on the side of the road

Fun Fact

There’s no such thing as an American Buffalo. Everything you think of as a buffalo in America is actually a bison.

A red moon on our visit to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
A red moon on our visit to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Further Reading

Longhorn cattle crossing the road in front of our car in the Wichita Mountains
Longhorn cattle crossing the road in front of our car in the Wichita Mountains

Have you been the the Refuge or any other wildlife preserves? Got any tips? Share below!

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2 thoughts on “Oklahoma City Day Trips: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge”

    • Oklahoma is awesome! I’m actually going back for three weeks to see the family at Christmas. If you ever do make it that way, let me know and I’ll send you some restaurant recommendations, etc. The Tex-Mex in Oklahoma is insane.

      Reply

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