It’s no secret that Oklahoma has a proud heritage closely tied to Native American culture and the beautiful land that gave rise to it. This fall, discover the state’s symbols and all they represent.
To get started, simply empty your pockets. The Oklahoma state quarter depicts two “Sooner State” symbols, the distinctive scissor-tailed flycatcher (state bird) and the Indian Blanket (state wildflower). To see these Oklahoma icons and much more firsthand, plan a journey through the Oklahoma Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
; at 39,000 acres, this is the largest protected prairie in existence. Here, you can marvel at hundreds of species of birds, plants and wildlife including the state animal, the bison. The herd of 2,500, one of the largest anywhere, roams free on land that remains much as it was centuries ago, under protection of the Nature Conservancy. Wildflowers and tall grasses peak during September and October, so there’s no time like the present to take it all in. Enjoy a leisurely hike or drive a 15-mile route that takes you through the heart of it all. The Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk and is located just north of Pawhuska in Osage County. Learn more at www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.7647.
Just miles from Tulsa, but seemingly worlds away, Redbud Valley Nature Preserve boasts flora and fauna you’re not likely to find anywhere else in the state. Enjoy hiking, bird watching, searching for fossils and studying wildlife along a rugged mile-long trail; plant life runs the gamut from prickly cactus to sugar maples, lush ferns to delicate Dutchman’s Breezes. And the terrain varies as well from woodlands to prairies to limestone outcroppings and caves. In this place named for the state tree (the redbud), you’re likely to encounter the scissor-tailed flycatcher and hundreds of other birds, some 80 mammal species, snakes, frogs and more. Get directions and other information at www.oxleynaturecenter.org/redbud.htm.
One of the most colorful Oklahoma symbols, in its history and its composition, is the state rock, the barite rose or “rose rock.” These unique crystals form in red-hued clusters that resemble roses (the state flower, naturally). Legend has it that when Cherokee tribes were forced from the eastern U.S. to Oklahoma in the 1800s, their “trail of tears” turned to the rose-shaped stones. You can see a noteworthy collection of rose rock at the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum in Noble. Get more information at http://roserockmuseum.com.
In all, 55 Native American tribes call Oklahoma home. Even the state seal’s five-point star evokes this heritage, its five rays representing the Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee and Seminole tribes. Get out and see Oklahoma in its most natural state. To find out more about Oklahoma’s state symbols, visit www.ok.gov/osfdocs/stinfo.html. You might just wish you’d done so “sooner.”