Nature Experience #8 – Oxley Nature Center, Tulsa

I pull into the parking area at Tulsa’s fabulous Oxley Nature Center and the muscles in my back instantly relax. It doesn’t matter what season of the year it is, or what the weather might be doing. For me, in many ways, a visit to Oxley is like coming ‘home’ – to the place where I am my true self, and feel the happiest.

I come to the Center knowing that I will feel peace. It’s also likely that I will hear many different birds, including a red-winged blackbird, and see butterflies everywhere. Frogs and insects call from native trees and plants. And the air smells fresh and full of oxygen. A breeze ripples the pond, where geese or ducks paddle and dip their heads.

The Nature Center building is a comfortable place, with a rustic cabin-like appearance. Whether enjoying the interactive displays, or sitting near the enormous stone fireplace I feel at home. I stop to watch the birds peck at feeders near the windows, or drink from the the bubbling waterfall. Then I linger on the deck above the pond and pitch fish food down to the water’s surface. Immediately, the water boils with hungry fish, while turtles, frogs and snakes linger on the edges or on floating logs. 

After visiting the Center, I might trek down one of the many interconnecting trails, hiking through forests, across the prairie field and over to Lake Sherry (over nine miles of trails!) The place is full of birds and butterflies. Visitors can regularly take part in Butterfly Counts and seasonal Bird Counts. If I walk softly on the trails, I may be rewarded by seeing squirrels, raccoons, beavers, or many of the other mammals, reptiles and amphibians that live there.

Although the Visitor Center maintains open hours, the trails are accessible to visitors any time that Mohawk Park is open (usually dawn to dusk). Naturalists staff the Center, and are available to answer questions, lead hikes and give programs. Membership at the facility is minimal ($10!) and guarantees that you will receive a newsletter full of nature tidbits and program information. Volunteers are always needed, and can serve as hosts at the nature center, give programs at schools, or lead group hikes.

Oxley is one of those places that once you’ve been there, you want to keep coming back. You will never forget it. A popular school field trip destination, many students from both private and public schools in the immediate area visit this fabulous city-owned facility each year. 

Located in the city’s Mohawk Park (among the largest municipal parks in the U.S. at 2820 acres), Oxley Nature Center occupies 745 acres in the north central section of Tulsa’s largest park. Mohawk is also home to the 70-acre Tulsa Zoo, and Mohawk Golf Course, but Oxley offers a critically-needed natural experience in the otherwise manicured park.

I can’t wait for my next visit. Can you?

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