Weekend Window: Wichita Mountains

The Wichita Mountains is a unique rugged area of granite and mountains, nestled in southwest Oklahoma.

"The mountains are 550 to 600 million years old," said Nick Plata, environmental educator at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. "And I think just that one fact — the fact that they're so old, has made them so beautiful."

Refuge parker ranger Lori Jones said visitors can see hundreds of bison — which, at one time, were nearly extinct — just out on the grass. But the site has more to offer.

"When I see the wildflowers here at the Wichitas, it just reminds me of an older time," Jones said.

Wildlife biologist Walter Munsterman said the diversity of wildlife found at the refuge is unlike anything else you'd find in the state.

"The flowers that bloom out here just make a blanket across the prairie," Munsterman said. "You'll have every color imaginable from yellows to hot pinks."

He said it adds a beauty to the landscape.

Refuge deputy manager Ralph Bryant said visitors get to see animals whose weight is close to 2,000 pounds. Some of them are even six feet tall at the shoulders, he added.

But, there are smaller animals, too.

"Prairie dogs are very interesting little creatures," Jones said.

Munsterman added they're very sociable animals. "They like to frolic and play," he said.

Jones said you can watch prairie dogs standing on their hind quarters, warning the rest of their burrow mates that danger may be close.

"Without the prairie dog, probably," Plata said, "This entire ecosystem would collapse."

He said they're truly essential. "Out of all the animals that we have here, they are the keystone species."

While Jones said she sees the mountains as a timeless beauty, Bryant believes they could touch your soul.

"You can find your solitude and serenity," he said.