Wichita Mountain Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2009)
- Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
- Length93 miles
The Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway offers many great wildlife viewing opportunities, especially as the route passes through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is host to over 50 species of mammals, 240 species of birds, 64 species of reptiles and amphibians, 36 fish species and 806 species of plants. From iconic animals such as bison (buffalo) to endangered species like the black-capped vireo, every wildlife enthusiast will have something to see.
Story of the Byway
A natural beauty capable of astonishing even well-traveled visitors, the Wichita Mountains Byway guides you through the protected valleys of the 550 million-year-old Wichita Mountains, which shelter the largest remnant block of southern mixed grassland and ancient cross-timbers in North America. Experience the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, one of the oldest managed nature preserves in the Nation and the site that President Theodore Roosevelt chose for the first effort to save American bison from extinction.
In 1901, this area was proclaimed a “Forest Preserve,” and then in 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first “Game Preserve” at the Wichita Mountains for the nearly-extinct bison. Today, the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge maintains a herd of 600 bison, descendants of the original 15 transported from the Bronx Zoo in 1907. In addition to the bison the refuge also manages a herd of 800 elk and about 400 wild turkeys. The Black-Capped Vireo, a small species of bird historically indigenous to the area from Kansas to central Texas, now resides primarily within the refuge. With about 3,000 breeding pairs, the refuge houses one of the two remaining large populations of Black-Capped Vireo in the world.
The 35-square-mile Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is considered to be the largest remnant block of Central and Southern Mixed Grassland in North America and has attracted more than one million annual visitors every year since 1962.
The Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway is identified as beginning at Apache and extending west on Hwy 19 to the Hwy 58/19 junction. The byway then proceeds north and south on Hwy 58 to Carnegie in the north and Medicine Park in the south. From Carnegie, the byway proceeds west on Hwy 9 to Mountain View and south on Hwy 115 to the junction of Hwy 49 and Hwy 115. From Medicine Park in the south, the byway extends east on Hwy 49 to I-44 and west on Hwy 49 through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Points of Interest
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a one-of-a-kind destination in southwest Oklahoma. Located near Cache and Lawton, the refuge spans over 59,000 majestic acres and is home to free range buffalo, Texas longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, elk and deer. Hikers and photographers will be astounded by the amount of incredible scenery offered within the refuge.
Located on the eastern edge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Mount Scott is one of Oklahoma's most prominent mountains. A three-mile-long paved road leads to the summit and a breathtaking view of southwest Oklahoma.
Wichita Mountains Forty-Foot Hole
A natural depression located in the northwest section of the canyon at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Several waterfalls are formed as the water from the nearby Cache Creek flows over the rocks. When you descend into the canyon you can cool off in the refreshing water.
From Mount Scott to Elk Mountain
Starting in the town of Apache on State Highway 19 and heading west, your journey along the Wichita Mountain Byway has officially begun. After driving through the community of Boone, make a left onto State Highway 58 south. Now you are driving through the heart of the Slick Hills and get to witness some of the most beautiful views in the entire area. Take the drive on Stumbling Bear Pass which will bring you to Lake Lawtonka. Here is the perfect time to stop by one of the many recreation areas available around this beautiful Lake.
Continuing the Byway, make a right onto State Highway 49 towards Medicine Park, where you are going to find a majority of the activities that can be found along this road. After stopping in beautiful Medicine Park, you have the chance to hike up Mount Scott in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. If you want to experience more, continue on the road until you reach classic sights like the Forty Foot Hole, the Bison Crossing Area, and of course Elk Mountain. All these locations are fully available to explore and enjoy, and that should be taken advantage of. After a long journey in this wonderful nature area, find a room in one of the many hotels nearby, or even set up a tent in a campground to spend the night.
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