On the way back from our Arizona sojourn Susan and I stopped and camped at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma.
This 50,000 acre refuge features restocked herds of Plains Buffalo, Rocky Mountain Elk and Longhorn Cattle. The native Elk used to be the Merriman’s subspecies until they became extinct. The Longhorns are maintained for historical and cultural reasons. 22,000 acres of the refuge are open to the public. A permit is required to visit he 8,000+ acre Charon Gardens Wilderness Area within the refuge.
Of interest was the typical vegetation of the Cross Timbers region. Extensive grass lands interspersed with oak dominated woodlands in the rocky areas. From casual observation it appeared to be about a 50/50 mix of grass lands and woodlands. Post and Blackjack Oak dominated with a fair amount of Eastern Redcedar in some areas. It was amazing to me to see three common eastern species so far west.
The largest of three species measured are as follows:
Post OaK (Quercus stellata) 7.8’ x 44.3’
Black Jack Oak (Quercus marilandica) 2.5’ x 33.5’, 3.7’ x 31.2’
Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana ) 3.6’ x 35.7’
Apparently since the era of fire suppression the incidence of Eastern Redcedar has greatly increased. There was an obvious Redcedar plantation encountered. The first I have ever seen and I wonder what precipitated that effort. I did not measure any trees in that plantation.
For more information about the refuge see:http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Wichita_Mountains/
For more information about the Cross Timbers check out the field trip reports under Oklahoma.
When in the area a not to be missed restaurant is one in Meers specializing in Longhorn steaks and burgers. The “town” of Meers is north of the refuge and is a former mining community. The restaurant looks like several old buildings were saved by cobbling them together to make an area big enough to seat fairly large clientele. http://www.meersstore.com