Tucker Tower Nature Center is not only a great place to visit, with its many interesting and educational displays and exhibits, it also has a history as colorful as the view from high atop the tower. Tucker's Tower sits on a steeply dipping outcrop named the Devil's Kitchen Conglomerate, of the Criner Hills Uplift, on the southern edge of the Ardmore Basin. This formation is significant because it supports the theories of geologists concerning the timeline of mountain building in this area.
It is said that under the water, beneath the tower, there lies a cave once inhabited by an early culture. Some say outlaws used the cave during the early settlement of the area!
Although there are conflicting stories, it is commonly believed the tower was originally planned as the summer retreat for then-Gov. William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, in return for his efforts to get the lake and state park situated in Southern Oklahoma. The lake also was named after Gov. Murray, who is recognized as one of Oklahoma's most colorful historical characters, as his name implies.
Workers in two Emergency Works Act programs established during the height of the Depression by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), converged on what had formerly been Chickasaw Nation property in 1933, to begin construction on Lake Murray State Park. It was the first state park built in Oklahoma and is still the largest. At the same time, workers began construction on the castle-looking building later to be called Tucker Tower. During construction, almost 17,000 men worked on the park project for $1.25 a day in wages.
The lake was completed in 1937 and opened to the public in 1938. But work on the tower ceased in 1935, reportedly because federal officials decided the project was taking too long to complete and costing too much besides. And so without windows, doors, floors, or ceilings, the tower was left open to the public and elements. It had been built based on photographs of a European castle taken during World War I by veteran Sen. Fred Tucker, a local legislator the tower is named for.
The tower remained unfinished until the state park service stepped in and completed the construction. From the first-floor patio, the tower reaches 65 feet into the air, allowing a breath-taking view that encompasses miles in all directions. The patio itself is about 60 feet above lake level. The tower features one roofed and two open patios, a tree-and flower -lined walkway from the parking lot (good walking shoes recommended), a lake lookout along the path, and shaded benches from which to watch the birds and wildlife. During the summer, a variety of programs are presented at 1 and 4 p.m. daily.
Tucker Tower opened in 1954 as a geological museum, featuring the granular hexahedrite meteorite found on the state park property in the 1930s. The meteorite remains on display in the tower, although the focus of the facility was changed to that of a nature center in 1981.1
Lake Murray's meteorite, the largest of its kind ever found and the fifth largest in the world, was cut in half at the Institute of Meteorites in New Mexico, allowing a rare glimpse into the inside of the 90 million-year-old object. It is just one of the many fascinating exhibits at Tucker Tower Nature Center. Other displays include the reconstructed skull and fossilized bones of a mastodon found along the Washita River about 35 miles away; a mind-boggling animal skull collection, and educational exhibits of fossils, Lake Murray history, insects, fish and wildlife, legends, and rock specimens.
The daily programs are free with paid admission. There also are free public evening programs available elsewhere in the park on Saturdays and Mondays during the summer season.
The naturalists working at the nature center ask visitors to employ simple rules of courtesy and respect other people as well as this beautiful state park.
Admission: There is a 50 cent admission to the tower for visitors 2 and older.
Hours: In season hours (Memorial Day - Labor Day): 9a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Out of season hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sunday
CLOSED Dec. and Jan.
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