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A Layman's Guide to: Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Updated on August 19, 2013

Woolaroc. A strange sounding name to be sure, but one which describes the area perfectly.




Woods, lakes, rocks. Woolaroc. Makes sense now doesn't it? This area has all of these features and they are all beautiful to behold. Travel along with me and take a gander at the treasures found here in Northeastern Oklahoma, won't you?

The entrance to the museum
The entrance to the museum | Source

Have you ever visited Woolaroc?

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Officially founded in 1937 by Frank Phillips, he of Phillips Petroleum Company (now known as Conoco Phillips), it began as a summer vacation home for Phillips.The name was orignally intended only for the lodge home, but soon came to be known for the grounds surrounding it.

Phillips was a collector, and many different things caught his collecting eye. If I were to describe the collections contained within the museum, I would use the term eclectic. Many and varied are the collections, ranging from a giant anaconda skin exceeding twenty feet in length, to the shrunken heads on display to the magnificent paintings. There is a petting zoo for the young at heart and the drive in and out of the area has many an animal for you to view as well. Free ranging American Bison, commonly known as Buffalo, wander the 3,700 acres of the ranch. Other more exotic animals live here including Zebras, Water Buffalo, Ostrich, Elk, Sika Deer, Llamas and Aoudad which are a type of wild goat.

While the drive in is fun, it is the museum itself which holds my attention. All ages will find something here to enjoy. My first visit was perhaps forty years ago, and several items in the collection which garnered my attention then still hold me today. A fossilized dinosaur egg, the shrunken heads, and several paintings rank high among these. At one time, the collection actually included a Cherokee Burial Site, complete with the skeleton. I believe this was returned at some point to the tribe as these became illegal to own.

The gun collection is worth the drive to any who enjoy guns. Pistols of all shapes, styles, sizes and types rest in beautifully crafted display cases. Rifles of every imaginable caliber and style are available for your viewing pleasure, as well as a massive Gatling Gun.

Shrunken heads on display at Woolaroc
Shrunken heads on display at Woolaroc | Source
Native American pottery collection
Native American pottery collection | Source
Dinosaur egg
Dinosaur egg | Source
Woolaroc airplane
Woolaroc airplane | Source

Woolaroc also has an actual, full size airplane in the collection. This plane was the first plane to cross the Pacific Ocean, making the trip from Oakland, Ca to Hololulu in just over twenty-six hours in August of 1927. The small single engine completed the trip with no issues, then was retired to Woolaroc. It really is the original display for the museum, having had a stome enclosure built for it in 1929. As more items were donated or collected, the "airplane museum" transformed into what it is today.

A visit to Woolaroc I found on youtube

Without a doubt, the museum's finest works are Native American in nature. Pottery, beads, blankets, culteral items all play a part to carry you from one area to the next, many times in complete awe and amazement. Items from Hopi, Navajo, Apache and Pueblo all are on display for your pleasure. War bonnets, everyday wear, cradles and war instruments complete the collection and make this one of the finest of its kind in America today, if not the world.

Sample of items available for viewing
Sample of items available for viewing | Source

The Lodge represents the living quarters originally built on the ranch. Today, it contains an amazing collection of mounts ranging from alligators to moose to bison to more exotic animals from the Dark Continent such as giraffe, rhino and zebra. Its log cabin construction invites you in and creates a warm, comfortable feel for the visitor.

Walk along and take a peek inside the old eating area, complete with seating for a full, working ranch's needs. It does not take much imagination to bring to life the old lodge, and to wonder at what it must have been like in its heyday.

Take a stroll on the covered porch and look out over the lake. If you look closely, you will see a teepee on the point of the lake below the ranch itself. This area is open to certain groups including weddings.

Between the lodge and the lake are areas of rocks and waterfalls that beg a person to climb up, down, and along in order to discover what lies just around the next boulder. My son spent as long as we let him just enjoying this one aspect. For close to an hour he ran, jumped, climbed and crawled over, through, and on the rocks, and little hideaways contained here. It was with great difficulty we pulled him away to begin the drive home.

View inside the Lodge
View inside the Lodge | Source
View of the teepee
View of the teepee | Source
Climbing around the rocks below the lodge
Climbing around the rocks below the lodge | Source
At a waterfall
At a waterfall | Source
At a waterfall
At a waterfall | Source

While there are many beautiful and incredible objects of art and history here, the area which pulls at me and holds my attention like no other is the art itself. I am no art connoisseur, but I do have an appreciation for art. No modern art consisting of mere blocks and sticks resting on an otherwise blank canvas are to be found here; these images look as though one could stroll into them. They are alive! Absolutely beautiful renderings of historical locales and events, these are masterpieces in their own right. Each one seems to be more amazing than the last, and in the end, all I can say is...


I wish I could list them all here, for they all are worthy of consideration. William R. Leigh, also known as the "Sagebrush Rembrandt" captured images that will pull you in and set your soul soaring. "Visions of Yesterday" is one such work, having an old Indian on the wrong end of a plow, his two horses better suited for buffalo ponies instead being of pulling the plow. The old Indian has paused and is looking sadly at a bison skull on the plains. It is as heartbreaking as it is poinient.

By far my favorite painting on the premises is "Navajo Fire Dance". This massive painting is full of images and every time I see it I find something new to admire. It is huge, measuring close to eight feet tall by perhaps twelve feet in width. The colors explode off the canvas and the image is incredible.

I could go on and on here, discribing this or that painting, but I will hold myself in check. If you can, experience it for yourself; if not, then my poor words and pictures will have to suffice.

Navajo Fire Dance by William R. Leigh
Navajo Fire Dance by William R. Leigh | Source
Visions of Yesterday by William R. Leigh
Visions of Yesterday by William R. Leigh | Source
Pocohantas by William R Leigh
Pocohantas by William R Leigh | Source
Custer's Last Stand by Fredrick Remington
Custer's Last Stand by Fredrick Remington | Source
Last Shot by William R Leigh
Last Shot by William R Leigh | Source
"An Indian Guide's Reply" stained glass window inside the Indian Heritage Building
"An Indian Guide's Reply" stained glass window inside the Indian Heritage Building | Source
"An Indian Guide's Reply"
"An Indian Guide's Reply" | Source


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    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      17 months ago from Texas

      Most interesting. I enjoy stops like this when I travel. I think maybe I could do without ever seeing shrunken heads, though.

    • livingsta profile image


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Lovely hub with beautiful photos for illustration. The place around the museum looks beautiful too. Thank you for sharing this with us. Voted up and sharing.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      This is very interesting, Mike. So much history! I think the name is so creative - whodathunkit? I would love to visit this place. I wouldn't be able to go into the lodge, tho. Animal heads weird me out, big time! An elephant head? Can you imagine opening up a box to find that staring at you?! I'd probably have a heart attack right then and there.

      Nevertheless, this was a fascinating hub. Nice!

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      6 years ago from Missouri

      It is on my list of things to do. First, because I love Cody, Wyoming. Second because it is just outside of Yellowstone. And third because one of my favorite characters from western history is buried there. John "Liver Eatin'" Johnston, known to the world as Jeremiah Johnson in the movie of the same name. Johnston actually existed, and is buried there. He fought in a Civil War battle near my home here in Missouri, and I dearly desire to travel to his final resting place in Cody.

      Someday, maybe...

      Thanks Bill. You and Bev take care and God Bless you and yours.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love trips like yours...thanks for sharing with us, Mike. If you ever get a chance, go to the Cody Museum in yes, Cody, Wyoming...truly amazing place for any lover of history.


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