When we turned the corner and entered the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, it was like entering another world. A time from long ago where buffalo roamed the praries and prarie dogs scattered across the fields. We arrived after 5pm and settled into the Doris Campground. It took all of one hour for Jase to announce that Oklahoma was like Africa. I think he was referring to the fact that you can drive down the roads of the refuge and encounter animals right outside your car windows. You see, the bison, deer, prarie dogs, turkey, otters, lizards and so many more animals are all free range on the 59,000+ acre refuge.
The visitors’ center at the refuge is like a mini museum and the boys spent at least an hour there exploring the history of the area, praries, refuge and Wichita mountains as well as searching out the various animals they may see while here. Armed with a map, we headed to the Holy City for a tour of this unique part of the refuge.
On the way out to the Holy City, we couldn’t help but pull over to the side of the road and say hi to some bison, a grumpy looking longhorn and some adorable prarie dogs. The Holy City itself is the result of a congregation that got together and decided that this are of the refuge is what Jerusalem would have looked like and they converted the area into a Holy City complete with a Passion Play that has been going on once a year since 1926. It is a gorgeous and reflective place.
Mt. Scott, which is the highest mountain in the Wichita range within the refuge had a beautiful drive up to a look-out. This was one of the situations that you get yourself into and then there is no way out of it. I didn’t realize I was scared of heights until I was driving up the mountain. There are only small rocks as a guardrail in areas and you look like you are going to drive right off the side in many places, but the views are worth it when you get to the top.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has 15 miles of designated trails for hikers. We took the Elk Mountain Trail System trail that led up through the area known as Charons Garden Wilderness Area this morning for a two hour hike before it got too hot. This was a pretty rough trail mostly over rocks and it rewarded us with spectacular views. Don’t worry though, they have simple flat trails as well that are well shaded if scrounging over rocks in the sun isn’t your thing.
The Doris Campground is as beautiful as the rest of the refuge with a mixture of semi-primitive tent sites, full electrical hook-up sites and even a few walk-in primitive sites as well. There is water available and both vault and traditional toilets with showers. The sites are spacious and some are waterfront.
The refuge was a bit out of the way when I was planning this trip, but now that we have experienced it, I am more than happy that we went out of our way to visit it. If you are anywhere nearby, I would definitely recommend that you don’t miss it!
Admission into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was free and day use is available as well. Doris Campground has a fee of $10 per night for semi-primitive tent camping and $20 per night for full hook-up sites.