Because of its diverse terrain, Oklahoma makes a wonderful home for an abundant species of wildlife. From mountains and prairies to lakes and forests and destinations like sanctuaries, museums, and zoos, each stop offers a uniquely unforgettable experience. These local parks provide families like yours with a close-up experience everyone will love. Use this guide to spend time in the great outdoors and see a few animals in action near Oklahoma City.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Wild bison in a field

Bison 10-20-17” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by Larry Smith2010

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in 1901, making it one of the oldest preserves in Oklahoma. It sprawls across nearly 60,000 acres near Lawton, just 90 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City. Its varied terrain encompasses mixed-grass prairie and features a towering ancient mountain range.

Visitors will find many animals living in the Wichita Mountains, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. Its most famous residents are the beloved herd of roughly 650 free-roaming bison.  You may also catch a glimpse of:

  • Texas longhorn cattle.
  • Prairie dogs.
  • Elk.
  • Coyote.
  • Turkey.
  • Beaver.
  • Ducks.

Science Museum Oklahoma

Kids from infants to teen love bugs, and there’s no better place to get your fix than at Science Museum Oklahoma. From exhibits to events, this institution has it all. Located on Remington Place in Oklahoma City, it’s the area’s premier destination for family fun and houses more than 8 acres of hands-on science experiences, and boasts thousands of artifacts on display.

Backyard Bugs: An Oklahoma Insect Adventure is a traveling exhibit that features giant animatronics, interactive exhibits, and amazing real-life insects on display. Guests get to experience the world from a bug’s unique perspective and learn fascinating facts about these creepy critters. Catch this display at Science Museum Oklahoma and other local museums like Leonardo’s Children’s Museum in Enid.

Celebrate Earth Day with fun activities like a butterfly release or stroll the SMO’s lovely gardens and discover who lives among the plants. It’s the perfect place for a young entomophile to explore the world of science and animals. The Science Museum Oklahoma is the place for boy and girl scouts to attend special events. You can earn merit emblems like the Insect Study Badge here.

Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge

Located near Okmulgee, Deep Fork is another excellent option to see local wildlife. The government established this national wildlife refuge almost 30 years ago. The park’s outdoor areas are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The refuge is alive with activity year-round. Explore the 1,200-foot long Cussetah Bottoms boardwalk down to the observation blind. Scan the water for great egrets and red-tailed hawks and see if you can identify the dragonflies that flit along the path.

You and the kiddos can stroll down the half-mile Railroad Overlook trail. It wanders along a beautiful wooded ridge where you just might see a squirrel, turkey, raccoon, rabbit, and white-tail deer. Deep Fork River provides a natural feeding and spawning habitat for many native sport fish. It’s also an important wetland and migratory path that many species of waterfowl visit each year, like:

  • Mallard ducks.
  • Wood ducks.
  • Northern pintail ducks.
  • Blue-winged teal dabbling ducks.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

Of course, everybody knows that the zoo is home to exotic animals. You might be surprised to learn that our hometown zoo features plenty of native creatures too. Located on Remington Place in the city’s Adventure District, the zoo covers 119 acres and features 1,900 animal residents.

Experience the natural beauty of our state on the Oklahoma Trails. The zoo dedicated 8 acres to showcase 100 different species and 800 individual animals that are native to the Sooner State’s 11 distinct life zones. Head there after school and meet a:

  • Grizzly bear.
  • American black bear.
  • Mountain lion
  • American alligator.

Alabaster Caverns State Park

Thousands of visitors flock to this state park off State Highway 50A in nearby Freedom, Oklahoma. If you’re wondering why it’s because of the bats! Alabaster Caverns State Park is a 200-acre sanctuary for several interesting cave dwellers, such as cave myotis and Mexican free-tailed bats.

These Oklahoma natives attract wildlife lovers from all over the state to encounter this unique — though potentially frightening — animal roosting in huge numbers within the caverns. In addition, the park features the only gypsum show cave in America, and you can catch a guided tour every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie in the world. Located on County Road 4201, it makes a wonderful home for a diverse number of different animals. 

Bring your binoculars and take a walk on the wild side through this 40,000-acre ecosystem. This prime Oklahoma preserve is a birder’s paradise. It boasts plenty of opportunities to watch eagles and other feathered friends. If you’re lucky, you may spy a rare grouse called the lesser prairie chicken as you trek through the park. You and the kiddos can spend the day wandering this nature conservatory with critters like:

  • Bison.
  • White-tailed deer.
  • Bobcats.
  • Armadillos.
  • Beavers.
  • Woodchucks.
  • Badgers.
  • Coyotes.

Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area

Head to Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area in Broken Bow for an unforgettable adventure. It encompasses just over 3,600 acres of protected land filled with fields, woods, ponds, and marshes that provide a distinct habitat for wildlife like various small game, songbirds, and fish. Bring your camera and  preserve your family’s memories when you capture some of these majestic creatures on film, like:

  • Quail.
  • Turkeys.
  • Waterfowl.
  • River otters.
  • American woodcock.
  • Osprey.
  • Wood thrush.

There you have it! Now, you and your family are armed with several places to see the local wildlife around Oklahoma City, thanks to Crème de la Crème of Oklahoma City. What spots top your favorite list of one-of-a-kind wildlife destinations?  Let us know and drop us a line! We want to add it to our guide so that other Sooner State animal lovers can check it out too.