A winter sunset from Mt. Scott by L. Dillon
Beauty has many forms and a different definition to us individually. Some might think the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma can’t compare to the Rockies, Yosemite or Yellowstone. As an Oklahoman who grew up a few miles from these ancient piles of red granite, I might be a little biased– but to me the Wichitas have a rugged beauty that is unequaled.
These mountains have endured over 500 million years of everything nature can throw at them and are still standing. Mt. Scott’s narrow, winding road leading to its flat summit has provided legions of visitors millions of panoramic views of the surrounding countryside including Lake Lawtonka, Lawton and Ft. Sill. Ask most any Okie what is the tallest mountain in the Wichitas and he’ll likely fire back, “Mt. Scott!” But they are wrong. The tallest peak in the wildlife refuge is Mt. Pinchot in the Special Use Area at 1,276 feet elevation, 12 feet taller than Mt. Scott. The tallest peak in the range is Haley Peak, at 2,481 feet, with Mt. Scott coming in third. Haley Peak (officially unnamed) is located on private property just outside the northwest corner of the refuge.
The shortgrass prairie surrounding the old mountains provided sustenance to a myriad of prairie wildlife species and still does. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest constantly maintained refuge in the nation. Deer, elk, bison, turkeys, and Texas Longhorns are routinely viewed from autos, making this an easy place to view wildlife. If you want to burn some boot leather on the trails, you’ll see many more species that are not typically associated with Oklahoma. One of my favorite Wichita critters is the Collared Lizards or ‘mountain boomers’ as folks called them in pioneer days. The colors on the Wichita boomers are unequaled across their range. The River Otters are making a come-back and can often be found with a little searching. Many western bird species can also be found in the area. Lots of folks don’t know Mountain Bluebirds winter in the Wichitas.
The constraints of a blog don’t allow an adequate history and description of the Wichitas. Be sure and check out our photo group on flickr, Oklahoma Nature Pics, http://www.flickr.com/groups/1941297@N20/pool/ You can search ‘wichitas’ and find many quality photos. For some especially good pics, look for members Larry Scott, randystrees and Vic Fazio’s photos. These guys spend a lot of time in the Wichitas and chronicle them well with their cameras.
Photo: My uncle Bill Dillon, father Lindell Dillon and grandfather Charles Dillon camping in the Wichitas ~1938.