Things to see and do in Northwest Oklahoma
Great Salt Plains
The Great Salt Plains lie northwest of Enid, near the town of Cherokee. The flat, white, high-sodium-content field covers thousands of acres next to the Great Salt Plains Lake. The salty surface is unusual, but the real items of interest lie beneath the surface. The salty groundwater is a catalyst for growing selenite crystals. The crystals grow, often in clusters, just below ground level, which makes it rather easy to dig for the crystals yourself. A section of the plain is set aside for visitors to dig for the crystals, and you are free to keep whatever you find.
While in the Cherokee area, ask about the artesian well. Along the side of highway 11 is a well, capped by a metal pipe, that shoots out clean, cool, free water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The well is on private property, but is free and open to visitors. Despite being near the salt plain, the water is fresh and clean.
On the far tip of the Oklahoma panhandle is Boise City and the Black Mesa, Oklahoma's highest point. You can climb to the top of the mesa, or check out the dinosaur tracks in a dry creek bed nearby.
Boise City has the distinction of being the only mainland American city bombed during World War II--and bombed by Americans, no less. No, this wasn't an act of terrorism, but rather a disoriented navigator on a nighttime B-17 training run. The lights around the town square looked surprisingly similar to the bombing target area, which was actually located in Texas. Luckily, the training bombs were filled with sand, and no one was hurt. It did give some people a scare, as told somewhat humorously in this 1943 Time Magazine article. Today, the town square contains a monument to the air raid, fashiond out of one of the actual bombs.
West of the Great Salt Plains is Little Sahara, a 1,600-acre field of sand dunes that look like they were transplanted directly from Cairo. The dunes, which can be as high as 75 feet tall, are a huge draw for ATV riders and dune buggy drivers. If the Little Sahara is too crowded for you, there is also the smaller (but less visited) Beaver Dunes State Park in the Panhandle, 100 miles west.
Everyone loves a windmill, right? Well, the small town of Shattuck, west of Woodward, contains an outdoor windmill museum. 45 restored windmills stand at the main intersection, for all to see.
The Alabaster Caverns northeast of Woodward are a gypsum cave with hourly tours and wild caving opportunities.
North of El Reno, the town of Kingfisher (birthplace of Sam Walton) hosts the Chisholm Trail Museum, providing a free history lesson on the cattle trail that used to run through the area. You can also tour the Seay Mansion, home of the Oklahoma Territory governor back before Oklahoma became a state. And, between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the Kingfisher park has one of the largest Christmas light displays in the state.
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