Alright, you caught me. It’s not a day on the beach with a Margarita and some sunshine. It was actually in the middle of a landlocked state with a breeze gusting around 30 miles an hour and so salty it left me windchapped.
You know, the Great Plains are actually made up of some really cool little areas. Like the Salt Plains (not to be confused with those boring old Pepper Plains. Just kidding.). Despite living only a few hours away for the last 7 years of my life, I hadn’t actually visited the salt flats of Oklahoma and the related National Wildlife Refuge. So on my first weekend day off in forever (well, fine, it was only 6 weeks or so…), the Other Half and I loaded up the dog for a jaunt up to the area.
The salt flats are exactly what they seem. A broad expanse almost as far as the eye can see layered in white, and as reflective as the desert sun. Small clusters of skeletal shrubbery cling together near the patchy puddles in the area, cut off from the Salt Fork of the Arkansas, which looks like no more than a dry creek bed.
In the areas where the water runs, a dammed lake forms the Great Salt Lake; runoff from rains forms multiple marshes in the surrounding lands, forming a sanctuary for migrating wildlife as well as the usual suspects like this greater roadrunner.
We had a wonderful picnic lunch at the quiet state park before continuing on to the wildlife refuge. You’ll know you’ve hit the national land areas when you pass a few longhorns and an Angus ranch. Turn left at the oil derrick. Not kidding.
The park is well-known for its location as a stopover for whooping and sandhill cranes. The sandhill cranes have been spotted year-round in the area, and true to form, we saw several hundred from the observation tower and dozens more flying in throughout the afternoon.
While we were leaving the observation deck, we also got to catch an interesting sight: A coyote.
She had trouble making headway with the high headwind, but she came to a stop just upwind of us. When she caught sight of us, she had the nerve to turn around and defecate in the water she had just drunk from before continuing on her way toward the waterfowl on the other shore. Just to, you know, give us the finger.
The 2.5-mile auto tour route wasn’t altogether exciting during the winter months, though we got a kick out of the marsh names: Big Marsh, Small Marsh, and, well…
… Let’s just say that the refuge’s creators weren’t too creative when they were coming up with names…
In all, I would love to come back when the area is a bit greener and the wildlife are a bit more active, but for a day’s jaunt up to explore somewhere new, it was totally worth it.