Oscar Hammerstein invited us to feel the “wind come whippin’ down the plains” in Oklahoma.
Driving West along Interstate 40, past Little Rock, the road and America open up before the weary traveler’s hungry eyes. For the first time on this route, the congestion and density of the country east of the Mississippi is left rapidly receding in the rearview, and the great American West truly begins. The world gets flatter, and the view gets longer and wider.
That’s right. Welcome to the great state of Oklahoma.
A couple of hundred miles West and the scant outline of Oklahoma City starts to appear, far in the distance. The plains stretch for miles, West to the panhandle, South to Texas, and North to the mid-western states that together make up the breadbasket of America.
The Sooner State is where the disparate regions of the United States meet and mix: East becomes West, West becomes Midwest, the hills become plains, the plains become desert, and climb to hills and mountains again. The state is rich in history and natural resources.
Below are a few can’t-miss spots when traveling in the heart of America:
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site: Few states in the Union carry the burden of a dark chapter of American history like Oklahoma. The destination of the famed “Trail of Tears”, was the relocation of native tribes from the East coast to the first reservations in the yet unsettled western territories. Oklahoma was long the front line of the Great Plains Wars between the U.S. government and the indigenous people who lived and thrived in this region for centuries. This national historic site commemorates the memory of the lives lost during a daring, pre-dawn raid by the famous American cavalryman, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. History buffs will enjoy walking the grounds and learning more about the bloody events that shaped the American West and continue to inform the culture of Western Oklahoma.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area: Containing so much more than just rolling plains and grain fields,
Oklahoma is a surprisingly diverse topographical state, evidenced by this popular recreation destination near Sulphur, Oklahoma. Rivers, streams, and lakes (most notably Lake of the Arbuckles) make this a weekender must-visit pleasure spot.
Boating, camping, hiking, and fishing are popular activities in this national recreation area. Interestingly, this recreation area also contains one of the first national parks, Platt National Park, later absorbed into the greater Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Oklahoma City National Memorial: A somber but important memorial stands in the center of the capital city of Oklahoma City, memorializing the lives lost on a dark April day in 1995 at the hands of domestic terrorists. In many ways, the Oklahoma City bombing was a flashpoint in American life, coupled with the tragic events at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas. The country had never seen such widespread carnage on American soil. This event began the evolution of the American psyche that continued through the Columbine massacre, 9/11, and continues in mass shootings today. Visitors can stand on the hallowed ground that was once the Alfred P. Murrah building in quiet remembrance of a day that changed the United States and, indeed, the world.