Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oklahoma, located right in the heart of the great plains, is the last place most people would expect to see mountains. However, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge tucked away in the southwest corner of the state is home to several of them. The Wichita Mountains may not be as big as the major mountain ranges in the Unites States. In fact, Mount Scott, the tallest peak in the refuge only rises to a height of 2,460 feet. However, what this area lacks in height, it more than makes up for in beauty.

The granite rock that makes up these mountains makes for great cracks and crags in the cliff faces resulting in perfect climbing conditions, and there are currently 250 rated routes for climbers to choose from throughout the refuge. For the less ambitious adventurers out there, the refuge also boasts nine trails that go around the entire 59,020 acre area, and plenty of campsites ranging from full electric hook-ups to backcountry roughing it.

The thing that sets the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge apart from similar areas is not the climbing or nature trails, however. What sets this area apart is the natural beauty. Whereas most refuges have miles of fenced in area, this entire place is wide open. It is not uncommon to have to stop to let bison or mountain elk pass by on a trail. Mitch Wilson, a sophomore at OU, says that this is what keeps him coming back.

"It's nice to get out here, because everything just feels so natural. There are bison and longhorns grazing everywhere, and wide open fields everywhere you see," said Wilson. "It feels like one of the only places left where you can go to really be in nature."

And the best part about this area? It is only about an hour and a half away from Norman. So, the next time you have some free time and want a unique outdoor experience, just head south towards Medicine Park to a place that is sure to keep you coming back for more.