During a 3-day weekend in Wichita Falls, we made the drive up to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. I was feeling confident that I knew what to expect from the many online articles I had read about it, but none of them did justice to just how incredible this place is! Wild bison and elk roam the refuge, as well as longhorn cattle. But the land itself is the real attraction! Beautiful, crystal clear lakes, granite mountains and wildflowers as far as you can see made for a day filled with things to do, and not near enough time!
Know Before You Go
Admission is free.
The roads through the refuge are open 24/7.
Pets are welcome.
To schedule tours, including the Fall Bugling Elk Tours or Winter Eagles Tours, click HERE.
American Bison or Buffalo
Regardless of what you call these amazing animals, you can find them all over the refuge, which is home to over 650! We saw lone bulls and large herds, many with spring calves!
During the Indian wars, the bison were decimated to near extinction in an effort to take away the main food source of the nomadic Native Americans. According to the refuge brochure, “In 1907, 15 bison were brought back to the southern plains by railcar from the New York Bronx Zoo.”
Remember, they are wild and possibly dangerous, do not try to approach!
Longhorns are well-adapted to living in the harsh climate of Texas and Oklahoma. Crafted through natural selection from Spanish cattle brought over in the late 15th century, the Longhorns have been kept at the Wichita Mountains WR since the 1920’s.
Each fall the refuge host an auction to keep the herd at a manageable size.
I spent a good 15 minutes chatting with one of the rangers, who gave me all the best places to hike, camp, etc. for our limited amount of time, so we could see as much as possible! The Center also has many displays and hands-on activities, as well as a short movie about the refuge.
Open 9-5pm, 7 days a week (except major holidays).
Bison shirts. Bison stuffed animals. Bison mugs. It’s bison galore!
Camp sites are not reservable, and available on a first come basis.
Camping requires a permit.
Backcountry camping in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area is allowed by special permit only. They limit the number to only 10 people at any one time, and to only 2 nights. Reservations can be made by calling the Visitors Center at 580-429-3222.
There are over 30 miles of hiking trails at WMWR, and we were only there ONE day! We hiked the 2.4 mile Charons Garden Wilderness Area, which was incredible, but rated as difficult. Some easier hikes are the .5 mile Quanah Parker Lake Trail, and .6 mile Osage Lake Trail.
Mountain Bikes are only allowed on Mt. Scott Bike Trail, a 3 mile dirt road behind Mt. Scott, and it is rated as EASY.
Trails are only open during daylight hours.
Prairie Dog Town
I love these adorable little rodents, and it’s heartbreaking that their “towns”, as they are called, have disappeared from much of North Texas in the past 30 years!
My 16-year-old really wanted to see one of the refuge’s elk, and we were able to get a listing of the best places to possibly see one at the Visitors Center. They suggested near Quanah Parker Lake and on the road towards Indiahoma, right at dusk. Unfortunantly, after careful consideration, my teenagers felt we should probably head back before dark since they both had end of course exams the next day.
The beauty all around us was incredible!
Charons Garden Wilderness Area
The granite mountains are a beautiful place to explore!
When we visited in late May, the grounds were covered in beautiful wildflowers!
One of the most interesting animals we saw at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was the abundant collared Lizards, with beautiful blue and green coloring! Not only are they beautiful, but as we came closer, they would stand up on their back feet to run! We spotted a few as we hiked, but once we sat down and became quiet, many of them came out onto the rocks around us!
Fishing and Boating
Fishing is allowed around the Wildlife Refuge with an Oklahoma fishing license.
Boats are allowed on 5 of the lakes, and trolling motors and canoes are allowed on 4 of them.
While it seems such a pristine environment, large levels of mercury have been found in many of the fish species, and there is an alert against eating them.
The granite mountains make for great rock climbing! For more information, click HERE to visit the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition.
We were on our way to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, when my husband announces that he is starving! I love my husband, but when he gets hungry, we call it hangry! Not knowing of the food possibilities near the refuge, we stopped at a little grocery store/gas station and ate some old food out of their old grease, while we talked to the lady that ran the store about visit to Wichita Mountains. It was only AFTER we choked down the last of our lunch that she told us to be sure and visit MEERS, which has the BEST burgers!
She was right! Everywhere we went at the refuge, they told us to be sure and visit Meers and that no matter how long the line was, it was worth it!
We pulled up and while the building looks to be about a hundred years old, and the floor had a decided lean to it, all the food is incredibly fresh and wonderful! Click HERE to read about it, and then go see for yourself!
The drive up to the top of Mt. Scott was a little scary, but at the summit there is plenty of parking, and an incredible view of Medicine Creek, Lake Elmer Thomas, sailboats on Lake Lawtonka and the valley below!
The road to Mt. Scott is open exclusively to hikers from sunrise until noon, and then exclusively to vehicles and bikes from noon to dusk.
Just outside Wichita Mountains, Medicine Park is a little resort community built on Medicine Creek, with restaurants and shopping on the picturesque riverwalk! Great for a day or a weekend, there are plenty of lodging options, from bed and breakfast to cabin rentals, many made from Medicine Park’s signature cobblestone. Swimming is allowed in the cool waters at the bath area, and kayaks are popular on the south end of the creek. During the winter months, the creek is stocked with trout every two weeks, and is a local favorite fishing spot! Click HERE to visit their website.
Things To Do near the Wichita Mountains WR
From Mt. Scott, the Lake Elmer Thomas Recreational Area looks like heaven, with a big swim beach, water slides and paddle sports on the 360 acre, no wake lake with year round camping and cabin availability. Click HERE to read more, and check their calendar for upcoming events like movies on the beach!
Lake Lawtonka also sits just below Mt. Scott, and is a beautiful lake spotted with white sailboats and water skiers! Click HERE to read more about the opportunities on the lake!
I didn’t even hear about this place, but the Holy City of the Wichitas sounds really neat! Click HERE to check it out!
In the little town of Medicine Park, there are plenty of dining options! We had already eaten in Meers, but my kids loved meeting Santa in May at Santa’s Snack Shop, which has snow cones, etc.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Click HERE to visit their website.
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