By Skylerr Patterson
Staff writer 

Trippin' Again: Refuge offers peace and quiet

 

Last updated 5/29/2021 at 3:45pm

Skylerr Patterson

The scenery at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers that peaceful feeling.

Editor's note: As we begin to see COVID-19 in our rear-view mirrors, travelers are cautiously returning to the roads. This series offers destination options for eastern New Mexico-area residents looking to get away for a few days.

The words, "Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam" conjure up a peaceful feeling: dreams of roaming buffalo in the fields, and seeing deer and other wildlife wandering on the Plains.

That song of want is much more accessible than many might think.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma was established in 1901 in order to protect wildlife species that were endangered, as well as restore species that had been eliminated from the surrounding areas.

Since then, bison, elk, wild turkey, prairie dogs, river otters, and burrowing owls have been reintroduced. The wildlife refuge now has more than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species that flourish and share the land.


There are various activities for the family to enjoy at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has 16 official trails, which amount to over 30 miles of hiking.

There are also various social trails that branch off from the official trails. This allows for wildlife watching, hiking, and photography opportunities. There are also opportunities for camping, special events and tours (both of which are done by reservation), as well as a visit to the visitor center. Here, staff and volunteers offer helpful information and access to various exhibits.

Along with roaming animals and wildlife experiences, the Wichita Mountains is home to a hidden gem. On April 4, 1926, Rev. Anthony Mark Wallock, along with a cast of five, put on an Easter service and dramatic production of Jesus' life in the Wichita Mountains. This first service drew in 200 visitors. The numbers quickly grew. By the late 1930s the event attracted more than 100,000 observers. It continues today.


In 1934-35, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built the now widely known Holy City. Numerous buildings and structures, including the Temple Court, Pilot's Judgment Hall, Calvary's Mount, the Garden of Gethsemane, watch towers, rock towers, and perimeter walls were all set in place. By the next year the Lord's Supper building, Herod's Court, a chapel, and other amenities had been completed.

In memory of:

In 1975 the Holy City included an 11 foot marble statue of Jesus Christ titled "Christ of the Wichitas." This statue was dedicated in memory of Rev. Wallock. Hidden in the granite structure of the pedestal holds one lone marble stone that was acquired from the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.


Local trail:

One of the many hiking trails include the Jed Johnson Tower Trail. It is a lightly hiked trail amounting to a distance of just 1.4 miles. This hike is fairly easy and allows for a pleasant view of the Jed Johnson Lake and its nearby tower. The tower itself was erected in 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to serve as an observation tower. The tower has since been out of use, but is still accessible for viewing.

A beautiful town:

Within the Wichita Mountains also sits Medicine Park. Medicine Park is a unique cobblestone community along Medicine Creek. It was founded in 1908 and was Oklahoma's first official resort town. This area caters to those who are seeking a break from the daily, busy schedule of life.


Hours and fees:

The refuge, Holy City, and the visitor center are all open seven days a week, free of charge. Donations are accepted. The Refuge and the Holy City are open from sunrise to sundown, while the visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To make reservations for camping, go to Recreation.gov.

Where is it:

The wildlife refuge is located in southwestern Oklahoma, near Cache and Lawton. It is about a five-hour drive east of Clovis.

More Information:

Visit the website at: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Wichita_Mountains/

 
 

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