Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge – Lawton, Oklahoma

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge-A Unique Blend of Ecological Diversity

In the southwestern corner of Oklahoma, visitors will find the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Situated just outside Lawton, the refuge was opened in 1901 as a protected area for some of the most unique wildlife habitats in the country. Today it is the oldest managed wildlife refuge within the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge spans more than 59,000 acres and is home to a wide array of different species. Within the refuge there are 240 different types of birds, 806 different plant species, 64 reptiles and amphibians and 36 types of fish. Not only are many of the species that reside in the refuge unique, but the location of the refuge is also geologically unique as well. The Wichita Mountains offers a pristine variety of prairie grass that makes it an ideal conservation area. Researchers estimate that the Wichitas could be about 500 million years old.

The refuge offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to see many large size native mammals that they might not ordinarily see elsewhere. Just a few of the mammals that reside at the refuge include white-tailed deer, elk, American Bison and Texas longhorn cattle. Originally the native subspecies of elk to reside in the area were Merriam’s Elk. Today that particular subspecies is extinct and as a result the species of elk that make their home in the refuge or Rocky Mountain Elk.

There are also many smaller species of mammals that live in the refuge, including the Black-tailed prairie dog and the nine-banded armadillo. Along with small mammals, visitors will also be able to encounter numerous types of birds. The refuge is one of the few homes left for he Black-capped Vireo, a species of bird that is now endangered.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the refuge is the ecological diversity that can be encountered there. Along with prairie communities there are also mountain plants and ravines.

Visitors who enjoy a variety of different outdoor recreational activities will find the refuge to be a wealth of fun. Along with rock climbing opportunities there are also plenty of chances to camp, hike and fish. Of course, the refuge is also an excellent location for wildlife and bird watching as well as photography. During the 1960s and 1970s, the refuge became extremely popular for rock climbing. Today that attraction continues, bringing in many visitors each year just for the climbing opportunities.