Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Oklahoma

(580) 429-3221

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

The 59,020-acre Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge hosts a rare piece of the past - a remnant mixed-grass prairie. This refuge is an island where the natural carpet of grass escaped anthropogenic destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow. Now the prairie community in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hums with life. The Refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals as well as the now-naturalized Texas Longhorn cattle. Bison, elk, deer, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, turkey, bunch grasses, post oak and blackjack oaks - these are just a few of the abundant species present in this incredible refuge. More than 50 mammal species, 240 bird species, 64 reptile and amphibian species, 36 fish species, and 806 plant species thrive at this refuge.

Visitors to the Refuge will enjoy camping, boating, fishing, climbing and hiking, as well as various other outdoor recreation activities. Viewing the Wichita Mountains' abundant wildlife and birds is definitely the Refuge's main draw.

Map of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Latitude, Longitude: 34.711140, -98.623452

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Activities

  • Boating

    Boats of any size are permitted on Lake Elmer Thomas, but a "no wake" speed limit is enforced lake-wide. Personal water craft, such as Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, Wave-Runners etc are prohibited.

  • Bird Watching

    Although the refuge is managed primarily for big game such as bison and elk, the lakes, woodlands, prairies, and rocky outcroppings found here provide habitat for a wide variety of bird species. The midcontinent location of the Wichita Mountains is a natural transition zone for eastern and western birds, including resident and migrant species. The greatest variety of species occurs during spring and fall migration periods.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Scenic Highway, which crosses the Refuge, offers only an introduction to the Wichitas. A drive to the top of Mt. Scott affords visitors with a panoramic view of the Wichita Mountain range. Interspersed between mountain peaks, visitors may view some of the last untilled native prairies in the United States.

  • Camping

    The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of camping opportunities. Doris Campground is a modern camping facility with individual and group sites. Fawn Creek Campground is reserved for organized youth groups through the university level. Backcountry camping is available in the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area. Individual campsites at Doris Campground are on a first-come, first-served basis and are not available for reservations. For group camping reservations at any Refuge campsite, contact Refuge Headquarters.

  • Climbing

    Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers the finest rock climbing opportunities in this region of the country. The good quality granite, multi-pitch routes, wilderness setting, and fine weather have all contributed to make the Refuge a popular climbing destination.

  • Fishing

    There are 13 Public Use Lakes and many small ponds on the Refuge which provide ample fishing opportunities for both bank and boat anglers. Largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish are likely to be caught in Refuge lakes. Only an Oklahoma State fishing license is required to fish on the Refuge.

  • Hiking

    Over 11 miles of hiking trails can be enjoyed by visitors to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Charon's Garden Trail, a moderate 4.4 mile hike, offers adventure through a boulder field as well as small streams, waterfalls, and beautiful mountain views.

  • Hunting

    The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hosts two of Oklahoma's most popular controlled hunts, the annual elk and deer hunts. The hunts are 2 1/2 days of exhilarating scenery and are known as some of the best-managed hunts in the country. The elk hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt and, once chosen, hunters may not reapply for this hunt.

  • Picnicking

    The Refuge offers a wide variety of picnic areas located throughout the Refuge. Picnicking is free at all general locations and the picnic areas are open during daylight hours. Boulder Cabin can be rented for private group picnicking.

    Mt. Scott Picnic Area is located directly south of Mt. Scott and west of Lake Elmer Thomas. Lost Lake and Boulder Picnic Areas are centrally located approximately half-way between Refuge Headquarters and Doris Campground. Sunset Picnic Area is located on the west end of the Refuge at the base of Elk Mountain. Road signs throughout the Refuge will direct you to these picnic areas. Fire rings and grills are available at the picnic areas, but please check current Fire Danger Ratings at the Refuge Gates or the Current Events page to determine use regulations. Trash dumpsters and restrooms are available at all picnic areas.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Three native herds dominate the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, including American bison, Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer. While neither "native" nor "wildlife," a herd of Texas longhorn cattle is maintained to preserve the cultural and historical legacy of this breed. These four species are the basis for the vegetative management on the Refuge, as they are responsible for the vast majority of grazing and browsing.

    The reintroduction of wild animals has been done to restore populations of animals once native to the Wichita Mountains. Recent reintroductions include the prairie dog, now flourishing in four areas of the Refuge, the river otter, and burrowing owls. Wild turkey can also be seen and the Refuge has a healthy population of both coyotes and bobcats.

    The refuge hosts spring wildflower walks. Wildflower highlights include: Indian blanket, coreopsis tinctoria and wild blue indigo. Prickly pear and barrel cactus also bloom in the area.

Seasonality/Weather

The refuge is open year-round.

Directions

Driving

From I-44 take Highway 49 (exit 45). Go west 10 miles to the Refuge gate. If coming from Highway 62, take Highway 115 (Cache exit) north to the Refuge Gate. A map is available. You will find leaflet dispensers inside each of the Refuge gates that have maps and information.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(580) 429-3221

Links