Woolaroc Ranch Historic District and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve are two of Oklahoma’s fine gems, located an hour apart from each other in northeast Oklahoma, the pair make for a good tour of Oklahoma’s open rolling hills, Native American heritage and American Western and oil history. Woolaroc is located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is one hour west of Woolaroc near the small town of Pawhuska.
Woolaroc Ranch Historic District, built by oilman Frank Philipps, is 3,700 acres of land including a wildlife refuge for native and exotic animals, a museum, walking trails and Philipps ranch home. If making your way to Woolaroc from Tulsa, Oklahoma, head one hour north to Bartlesville. The wildlife living in Woolaroc include the American Bison, elk and longhorn cattle, Sika deer, water buffalo, and my favorite animal, prairie dogs. There is also a petting zoo here with ostriches, donkeys, llamas, pigs and more. The museum is a collection of Native American art and artifacts, American Western art and history, and one of the world’s largest Colt firearms collections. Seriously, Frank Philipps has a huge Colt ’45 fetish, check it out.
The animals living in this very attractive slice of the Osage Hills are wild animals through and through, so stay in your cars folks! The people at the gate will give you a free cd, giving you a history of the park and animals, once you pay the $10 entrance fee. The walking trails are short but pleasant. Look at the website’s calendar for events, there is a large traditional tee pee made from cowhide used in events such as Mountain Man Camp, Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion, Kids Camps, Christmas Light shows and much more.
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest remaining tract of tallgrass prairie in the world. In these wide open 39,000 acres you can see American Bison grazing. The herd tops out at 2,500, last time I made a visit there were no bison to be seen, this was because I went in July during the heat of the day, so all the bison took shelter in the few bit of trees clustered around the creeks. But, this is quite rare, bison are almost always visible and usually blocking the road. There are two hiking trails, one is a nature trail and the other a short two miles. Before the land was a preserve it was an Osage Indian Reservation, then it was a ranch. The old Chapman-Brand ranch has been turned into a visitor center with a gift shop and restrooms. Admission to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is free and open all day. Again, be careful when near the American Bison, they are unpredictable and can gore you if provoked. My family friend, who happens to be from a coastal city, loves to come here because the waving tall grass reminds here of the ripples of the ocean, it is truly serene.
If you are not native to Oklahoma and just passing through, I suggest you stick around the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve during sunset, Oklahoma has spectacularly colorful sunsets.