Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Wichita Mountains, an Oklahoma Treasure

I first visited the Wichita Mountains a number of years ago. I’d gotten the bright idea to write a novel about a woman geologist from Scotland who explores the Wichitas. That book never came to fruition, but I’m putting my photos and research about the mountains to good use in my WIP, Dearest Druid (Texas Druids, Vol. III.)

Elk Mountain, Wichitas
Elk Mountain, Wichita Mountains; photo from Wikipedia Commons;
licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The Wichitas are among the oldest mountains in the United States. Formed some 550 million years ago, they have weathered and eroded through time. Yet, they still rise over 2,000 feet above sea level and more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. True, they can’t compare to the majestic Rockies, but seeing them rise out of the Oklahoma prairie is mighty impressive.

More impressive is the mountains’ role in history. For decades, even centuries, they were home to elk, dear, wolves and other native species. A natural pass running through the mountains, now called the Wichita Mountain Byway, provided access for Indians, white settlers and herds of buffalo to the south Oklahoma prairie, the Red River and Texas. When the Army needed an outpost from which to launch campaigns against Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and other Indian raiders on the southern plains, Fort Sill was built in the foothills of the Wichitas. The fort is the only military post dating from the Indian Wars on the south plains that remains active today.

Old Fort Sill
Fort Sill, 1889; courtesy of the Library of Congress
Rainy Mountain, a lone outlier of the Wichita chain, became famous with the publication of N. Scott Momaday’s book The Way to Rainy Mountain, a poetic glimpse into Kiowa Indian ways and their mystical beliefs. When the Kiowa were forced to give up their wandering life as hunters and raiders, the tribe settled near Rainy Mountain on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation.

The way to Rainy Mountain

Established in 1901, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest protected wildlife area under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s management. It played a large part in saving the American bison (buffalo) from extinction. In 1907, the American Bison Society delivered fifteen bison from the New York Zoological Park to the refuge. When the animals arrived, they were greeted by Indians and whites alike. Comanche chief Quanah Parker is said to have cried at the sight of them. The refuge is now home to about 650 bison. Many other species, including a herd of Texas Longhorn cattle also live in the refuge.
Longhorn cattle in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Now here's a taste of Dearest Druid, planned publication: March, 2013

Rose Devlin, youngest of the three Devlin siblings, is accompanying Choctaw Jack in an urgent attempt to save his mother's life, using Rose's healing gift. Due to past tragedies, she is fearful of men and doesn't fully trust Jack, while he is fighting his attraction to her because she's white.

Riding away from Fort Sill, Rose gazed at the jumble of mountains extending northwest from the fort. “What are those mountains called?” she inquired, lagging a bit behind Jack.

“The Wichitas. Stick close now,” he ordered, glancing at her over his shoulder. When she obediently caught up, he kneed his horse into a lope, and she followed suit.

She’d never seen mountains before and couldn’t keep from staring at them. They weren’t terribly high, surely not as tall as the majestic Rockies to the far west, which she’d seen pictured on postcards and travelers’ Guides. Cloaked in shades of gold, green and brown, these peaks reminded her of dignified old women basking in the sun. She giggled at the thought and wished she could explore them.

“Toppah!” Jack shouted, giving her a start.

“Aye?” Responding without thinking to the Indian name, she jerked her gaze away from the rocky heights. To her surprise, Jack had stopped and turned his mount to face her, some distance ahead.

There was no sign of the gentle smile he’d given her a short time ago. With a fist planted on his thigh, he scowled fiercely. “I said stick close, didn’t I?”

She kneed Brownie, hurriedly closing the gap between them. “Aye, and I’m sorry. ’Tis simply that –”

“You’re not out for a pleasure ride, woman. This is rough country.”

Pulling abreast of him, she watched him warily, half expecting him to cuff her for being so thoughtless. “I know, but --”

“And I’m not talkin’ just hills and gullies. I mean bears and panthers that sometimes come down out of those mountains. I mean the wolves I already warned you about, and poisonous snakes that can kill you with one bite. Cross paths with any of ’em, and that stallion’s liable to shy and dump you on your backside if you don’t stay alert. You want that to happen?”

His mention of snakes made her quake. “No,” she muttered, eyes downcast.

After a brief silence, he added more calmly, “There’s something else you’d best keep in mind. We’re on the Comanche-Kiowa-Apache Reservation. You don’t want to be trailing behind if we meet some braves who’ve had too much firewater. From now on, keep up. All right?”

Feeling like a fool, she nodded meekly.

Darlin’ Druid --Texas Druids book 1: (Kindle)

Dashing Druid -- Texas Druids book 2:

White Witch (prequel novella):



  1. My husband worked at Fort Sill for several years testing the equipment he built for the government. Plus, only 30 miles west is where my mom grew up. I have a deep affinity for the area.

  2. Caroline, sorry I'm so slow to reply. It was a hectic weekend. I've been knee-deep in writing blog articles.

    Fort Sill and the Wichita Mountains are fascinating for their setting and history. You're lucky to know the area!

  3. How interesting, Lyn. Love the photos. This is an area I've never been introduced to before.

  4. Wonderful post! (Sorry for my delay in reading it. A fall cold caught me off guard.)

    I'll have a story coming out from Harlequin next spring that is set at Fort Sill. I've never been there, but want to! My nephew lives close and he visited the area and sent me info and pictures for my research. Little did I know, I could have just emailed you!

  5. Paisley, Oklahoma is full of surprises. The Wichitas aren't the only mountains in our neighbor to the north (I'm in Texas, remember) and lakes also abound. And there's a slice of history around every corner. I hope you get to visit one day.

  6. Lauri, not to worry. I've been under the weather too, fighting allergies and coping with a new health problem.

    Can't wait to read your Fort Sill based story! I wish I'd known you were working on it. My bookshelves are stocked with several books about Fort Sill and the Indian tribes it was built to control.


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