Things to see and do in Southwest Oklahoma
"Oklahoma" literally means "red people", in reference to its start as Indian Territory. Oklahoma still has more Native Americans than any other state, and the influence can be seen in everything from town names (Cherokee, Tahlequah, Okemah, Broken Arrow, Waukomis, etc, etc) to the state flag.
Southwest of Oklahoma City, the town of Anadarko bills itself as the "Indian Capitol of the Nation". Anadarko is home to multiple Native American museums, including the Southern Plains Indian Museum and Crafts Center, the Western Delaware Tribal Museum, and the somewhat redundant National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians. The outdoor Indian City USA features reconstructions of Indian villages for seven different tribes.
Farther southwest, near Lawton, stand the Wichita Mountains--also named for an Indian tribe--and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The mountains are both impressive and unimpressive, and for the same reason: according to geologists, the Wichitas are the oldest mountain range in the world. But, since mountains wear down over time, that also means the Wichitas are not very big, or steep, or rocky.
For wildlife lovers, though, the drive through the wildlife refuge does provide a close-up look at buffalo, elk, deer, prairie dogs, and longhorn cattle (cattle are wildlife now?).
The best place to view the undeniably cute prairie dogs is along the road to the Holy City of the Wichitas. The Holy City is a giant outdoor stage for a passion play, with stone prop buildings representing the different locations of Jesus' life. The Easter play has been held there each year since 1926, making the prairie dog town one of the most preached-to wildlife communities in the country.
If you prefer more exotic wildlife, the Arbuckle Wilderness contains everything from giraffes to camels to rhinoceroses to kangaroos. Beware of the ostriches, though; you may want to keep your windows rolled up as you drive through the park.
The Arbuckle Wilderness is located between Oklahoma City and Ardmore, in the Arbuckle Mountains, another ancient mountain range that is very interesting to geologists but perhaps not as exciting to the layperson. They do contain Turner Falls, though, a natural water park with the state's largest waterfall and crystal-clear pools popular for swimming. The park also contains campsites, three caves, and one of Oklahoma's few castles.
The Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton covers the natural and human history of the area, from prehistoric mammoths to Indian exhibits and the Wild West. A prairie dog town is even included on the grounds.
And in Clinton, the Route 66 Museum is devoted to preserving neon and tail fins. The museum covers the mother road's history on a decade-by-decade basis, and includes plenty of signs, antique gas pumps, and a restored diner.
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