Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

category : Wildlife Refuges
Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge Wild, rugged and weathered, the Wichita Mountains offer visitors the opportunity to view the oldest mountain range in North America. In the unspoiled reaches of the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, you are certain to broaden your appreciation of nature and develop a renewed commitment to the value of environmental stewardship. The Wichita Mountains were first designated as a Forest Preserve by President McKinley in 1901. President Roosevelt changed its designation to a Game Preserve in 1905. It the oldest managed wildlife preserve in the United States. The lakes, streams, canyons, mountains and grasslands of the refuge are ideal for
hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, photography and other permitted outdoor activities.

The rock outcrops, forests and grass prairies create
excellent habitat for herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and longhorn cattle. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers a view of these prairie lands and
herds as they existed prior to the development of the Great Plains.

Why a Refuge?

From an estimated 60 million bison, no more than a thousand could be found on the Great Plains in 1900. The slaughter was not limited to bison alone. The Wichita's original subspecies of elk was hunted out in 1881. The giant bronze turkey no longer gobbled along the creek bottoms. With such alarming losses, new conservation ideas were needed to preserve America's wildlife heritage.

One idea was land protection by President McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Another idea was to restock the animals. Fifteen bison
were donated from the New York Zoological Society and arrived at the Preserve via the Cache railhead in October, 1907. Merriam's elk were already extinct, but Rocky Mountain elk from Jackson Hole, Wyoming were later established here. After turkeys were transplanted from Missouri and Texas, the land once again resounded with gobbles, bugles and bellows.

Today the 59,020-acre Wichita Mountains 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 destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow.

The prairie community hums with life. The Refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals and
Texas Longhorn cattle. Bison, elk, deer, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, turkey, bunch grasses, postoak and blackjacks - these are just a few. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806
plant species thrive on this vitally important Refuge.

Be sure to make your first stop the new visitors' center at the crossroads of Highways 49 and 115. You will see exhibits depicting the geology, flora, and fauna of the mountains. The center's exhibits, hands - on learning experiences, gift shop and information will get your visit off to a great start.

How to Enjoy the Refuge

The Refuge is maintained in a natural and wild condition. Visitors must be prepared to meet nature on its terms. Due to OPEN RANGE management, motorists must drive defensively and be alert for hazards caused by wandering buffalo, longhorn, deer and elk. Reduced night speed is enforced due to the difficulty of seeing wildlife on the roads at night.

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.


Many of the animals seen on the Refuge - longhorns, buffalo, elk, deer, prairie dogs - may
appear tame or harmless, but they ARE WILD ANIMALS and should not be approached closely, teased, fed, or frightened. Such actions on your part are dangerous and may endanger your safety or that of the animals. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE.

Enjoying Your Visit

Bring your binoculars. Most wildlife are wary of humans. Binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto camera lenses will help you get a close-up view without disturbing the animals. If you are too close, the animals will either flee or fight, neither of which is very helpful to

Wildlife activity is best observed early in the morning or at dusk. Field guides will help with identification of wildlife and wildflowers. When hiking, take drinking water, compass and a companion. Be aware of sunset times.

Respect people who may also be enjoying the Refuge. If you are too loud, you will ruin everyone's opportunity for natural, relaxed observations and photographs. Stewardship takes many forms, but in essence, it's an ethic. Respect your Refuge and the people and animals it hosts.

Public Use Area

There are over 22,400 acres of wildlife habitat open for hiking, observing wildlife, photography and other recreational uses. Picnicking is available at four locations, three hiking trails are established, and over 40 miles of paved roads will help you access the
Public Use portion of the Refuge. Camping at Doris Campground includes primitive to electric hookup sites. A modern shower facility and clean restrooms are provided there. Your group can reserve private picnic areas, group campsites, and youth camping areas, however individual sites (for fewer than 8 people) are on a first come, first served basis. Please be aware that alcoholic beverages of any type are not allowed on the Refuge.
Thank you for your cooperation!

The remainder of the Refuge, the Special Use Area, is set aside for big game, eagles and other forms of wildlife that need large undisturbed areas. Tours and education programs
into this area are offered seasonally by reservation. The annual tour schedule notes the programs in the Special Use Area.

Respect your Refuge

Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt did not know you or me, but they did know this Refuge would be a lasting part of each American's heritage. It is up to you to assure this
precious national treasure remains as clean and wild as they had intended. For in past history, we learn of things yet to come. For our responsible actions today, a part of yesterday will be alive tomorrow.

How to Get There:

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is located 25 miles northwest of Lawton, Oklahoma. From Interstate 44, take exit 45 west 10 miles to the Refuge gate. If coming
in from Highway 62, take Highway 115 (Cache exit) north to the Refuge gate. Contact Refuge Headquarters for more information.

Phone: 580-429-3222
Fax: 580-429-9323
Our Email:

Visitors Center Hours:

The Visitor Center is closed on Tuesdays but is open every other day of the week from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
The Center is closed on major holidays, including Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day.
It opens at 1:30pm on Easter Sunday.
For further information about the Visitor Center, please contact Refuge Headquarters.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Headquarters
(Six miles west of the Visitors Center on Hwy. 49
Rt. 1, Box 448
Indiahoma, OK 73552

Come visit us in Lawton, Oklahoma

Attractions and Upcoming Events

Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area

Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area is your one-stop family fun and outdoor recreation location. LETRA is nestled in the picturesque Wichita Mountains and offers a 360-acre lake surrounded by native prairie.

Lawton, OK Recreation

Wichita Mountains NWR - Hunting

Elk and Deer Hunting Opportunities The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hosts two of Oklahoma's most popular controlled hunts, the annual elk and deer hunts. Set amidst granite mountains and prairie grasslands, the hunt is 2 1/2

Lawton, OK Hunting

Museum of the Great Plains

At the Museum of the Great Plains, the natural and cultural history of the Great Plains of north America is studied and shown in many exhibits and programs that will be enjoyed by all members of the family. Special events include a twice-yearly encampment of 1830

Lawton, OK Museums

Things to do Wildlife Refuges near Lawton, OK