OKLAHOMA, the Sooner State

What to see

Tulsa Philbrook museum
Muskogee Five Tribes museum
Tahlequa Cherokee Nation
Elk City Wildlife Refuge Park
Anadarko Indian museum
Clinton Route 66 museum
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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South West

In the travel series View America, South West covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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OKLAHOMA is also known as the Sooner State, because many impatient settlers already occupied land before it was legally cleared for colonization... The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw words for "red" and "people". In 1907 Oklahoma joined the U.S. as the 46th state. Its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City. This city has a surface of 1,600 km2, making it one of the largest cities in the US!

The state's surface is approximately 181,000 km2, and about 17% of it is forested. It has some 3.5 million inhabitants, with a density of 19 per km2, and the Indian population totals about 273,000. The main rivers are the Arkansas and the Red river, which run off in the Mississippi. The state is notorious for its dozens of tornadoes, that occur mostly in April and May.

Oklahoma has a great variety of soils, temperatures, rainfall and natural vegetation, and its farmers had to adapt themselves to these different circumstances in every part of the State. Texas cotton growers felt that the season wasn't long enough for cotton in the north, Kansas wheat growers received too much water in the east, and Missouri corn planters on the contrary thought it was too dry... This would have required changing their crops, but what happened was that many simply quit farming, and switched over to keeping livestock. The state has large reserves of coal, oil and natural gas.

There are several nature parks with buffalo, deer and prairie dogs. Through the state runs the famed Route 66, which was the first highway between east and west!

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Tulsa : Philbrook museum

The Philbrook Museum is an Italian villa, that was built in 1920 by millionaire Waite Phillips. In 1938 he donated the mansion to the city. Philips sold his oil company for twenty-five million dollars, which means that he didn't have to worry about financial considerations anymore...

The museum exhibits Italian, French and Dutch paintings, and Indian pottery. The building is impressive, but given the absence of its original furniture, it may appear somewhat cold and impersonal. The English gardens are extremely lovely, and skillfully constructed!

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Muskogee : Five Civilized Tribes museum

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The Five Civilized Tribes Museum is located in a federal building, that was constructed in 1875 for the local Indian Agent. It contains interesting information about the history of the Five Civilized Indian tribes. We read for instance that the federal government concluded no less than seventy-one treaties with the five tribes, and later broke all of them...

In 1850, there were an estimated sixty million buffalo's, and by 1900 there were only thirty-nine left, which was the result of a deliberate strategy to destroy the Indian food source. The museum is not very elaborate, and it is obvious that it only exists through donations and gifts.

Tahlequa : Cherokee Nation

Tahlequa is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Heritage Center contains an interesting exhibition about the Cherokee history.

The official Indian hunt by the federal government really got under way after Andrew Jackson became president in 1829. In 1830 Congress voted the Indian Removal Act, that swept all the Indians away.

After 1831 and a few more fraudulent treaties, the Cherokees were expelled from their territories in Georgia, and imprisoned without warning in concentration camps. Afterwards, they were literally dragged to Oklahoma, and during this trip between 4,000 and 6,000 Cherokees of the original 17,000 "accidentally" died of deprivation! This inhumane journey is called the Trail of Tears.

By 1837, some fifty thousand Indians from sixty tribes had been forcibly relocated!

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Elk City : Wildlife Refuge Park

If you want to see buffalos, visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Park, but preferably not on a Tuesday, as the Visitors Center is closed on Tuesdays...

Along the way you'll see green meadows, stunning vista's over the vast landscape, and an awful lot of cattle. The vast majority of the land is used for grazing, but some fields, well-equipped with irrigation systems, are used for agriculture. The hilly landscape is extraordinary, and the panoramas have an uncanny way of transporting the visitor back to three hundred years ago, in an ancient and natural environment. The scenery is breathtaking, and the drive is simply a pleasure.

The Wildlife Refuge Park lies along the eastern edge of the southern Great Plains. It has a surface of 59,020 acres, of which some 20,000 acres are open mixed grass prairie, with the remainder being forest and rock outcroppings. It was established to protect wildlife species in danger of extinction and to restore those species that had been eliminated from the area.

It houses American buffalos, elk, white-tailed deer, several herds of Longhorns, and of course scores of prairie dogs, in a most natural environment. Wonderful!

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Clinton : Route 66 museum

The Route 66 museum in Clinton offers a nostalgic tour through time, and it relates the history of Route 66 since 1920 in detail. The interesting audio tour is embellished with all sorts of old souvenirs and memorabilia.

One of the many anecdotes is an interesting and original explanation of the famous Phillips 66 fuel logo. There are several diverging versions, such as the fact that by that time there already were a few gas pumps along Route 66, and that in 1927 the Phillips Petroleum Company developed a new gasoline mixture, with a weight density of sixty-six.

This explanation mentions that two Phillips senior executives, who were late for a meeting, tore down the highway in their car. Obviously a new name had to be found for the new gasoline. One executive said that the new gas was so good, that the car managed to drive sixty miles per hour. To which the driver responded: "No sir, it is more like sixty-six miles per hour"!

Now, in those days, the highest speed that cars managed to reach was between fifty-five and sixty miles per hour. When the executives mentioned the incident at the meeting, the new gasoline name was immediately chosen; sixty-six miles per hour! A nice and most charming visit!

Clinton : Route 66
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