Dry Cimarron Byway
The Dry Cimarron Byway is located in Cimarron County in the panhandle of Oklahoma. It begins East of Keyes at US 56 traveling west to Boise City then proceeding west on state highway 325 through Kenton to the Oklahoma/New Mexico state line.
The panhandle region of Oklahoma is a unique asset to the state’s diversity. The region hosts many opportunities for individuals or groups to enjoy the great outdoors and take advantage of various activities bringing them closer to the natural side of life. The Cimarron Byway is a kaleidoscope of habitats, geology, and history covered throughout its range
Cimarron County Unique Features
Unique County to the United States
Cimarron County, Oklahoma is the westernmost county of the panhandle of Oklahoma. It is the only county in the United States that touches four other states. Those states and locations are northeast New Mexico, southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, and the panhandle of Texas. Highway 287 (the future Ports-to-Plains Corridor) passes north/south through Cimarron County. Highways 64 & 56 are the major east/west highways. Boise City is located in the center of Cimarron County.
Three State Marker
This monument marks the spot were three different states meet including: Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.
There are three sets of tracks in the creek bed- the main set, a shallower but similar set about 50 yards upstream, and a smaller and much more eroded set downstream. These tracks are in Jurassic formation (sand-stone)- 150 million years old.
During the 1930’s, several dinosaur quarries were opened and excavated. More than 18 tons of fossilized remains have been taken from Cimarron County quarries. Five distinct species of dinosaurs were found in the same quarry. Other quarries in the same general area have yielded the remains of giant mammoths.
Santa Fe Trail
History of the Santa Fe Trail
The Cimarron route of the historic Santa Fe Trail lies within 16 miles of the Black Mesa. Following Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, both U.S. and Mexican merchants were anxious to begin commercial trade between their respective countries. Using trails and watering holes that were familiar to the Plains Tribes, American traders developed an 860 mile wagon route which linked Missouri with the bustling community of Santa Fe. From 1821 to 1846 this international trade route carried needed materials from the U.S. into northern Mexico and brought silver, furs, and wool to Missouri. Although the importance of the Santa Fe Trail began to decline with the arrival of the railroad in the 1860’s, this route continued to be used for freight and military purposes until the arrival of the steam locomotive in 1880. (Packet Information)
Autograph Rock was a stopping off place for the wagon trains to make repairs, rest, and recover from disease. It has a year round spring for watering the animals. This Rock has over 500 documented “signatures” from many who traveled the trail. The landowner, the National Park Service, and the Cimarron Heritage Center Museum have an agreement whereby the visitors to this site are controlled by the landowner and the museum. Visitors must receive permission to visit and access is controlled. Grass conditions permitting, the site is open from April to September. No visible directions or signage will be permitted. The site has not been destroyed by the public and is still pristine
Trail Swales Viewing
Cimarron County has some of the best preserved sites along either route of the Santa Fe Trail. Most of the sites are on prairie grassland that has never been broken out for farming. Arial photos of the trail are spectacular. Thousands of wagons, laden heavy with goods, traveled the trail throughout the years creating swales side by side. The idea was to get across the prairie as fast as possible, so when open there would sometimes be five to six lines of wagons traveling together.
Highest Point in Oklahoma
So-where's the highest point in Oklahoma? Right in the northwest corner of Cimarron County! This "high point," also known as Black Mesa, extends into Colorado and New Mexico since it's about 55 miles long and up to several miles in width, depending on where you're standing. Black Mesa is great for hiking, bird watching, native plants, and of course the best night skies in America! Black Mesa is 4,973 feet above sea level, and a granite monument marks the high-point, which can be reached by hiking a 4.2 mile trail to the top. A trailhead parking area has been created by the partnership of the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. For more information on Black Mesa, contact Black Mesa State Park at 580-426-2222 or the Cimarron County Chamber of Commerce.
Black Mesa State Park
Whether you are climbing nearby Black Mesa, following the fossil footprints of dinosaurs, hiking the petrified forest trail, or fishing in Lake Carl Etling, Black Mesa State Park is your gateway to this ruggedly beautiful part of Oklahoma.
This park is in Oklahoma's panhandle and got its name from the layer of black lava rock that coated the mesa about 30 million years ago. The Nature Preserve is located 15 miles from the state park and features Oklahoma's highest elevation at 4,973 feet above sea level. Black Mesa State Park is adjacent to Lake Carl Etling and offers RV, tent campsites, picnic facilities, boat ramps and a mooring buoy, trout fishing in season, a playground, restrooms with showers and a group camp with bunkhouses. NOTE: There is no boat access to Lake Carl Etling at this time. For specific lake conditions, please contact the park office.
Features/Facilities: 349 Park Acres • -Acre Lake Carl Etling • 64 Campsites • Group Camp (capacity of 120) • Black Mesa Preserve • Hiking Trail • Boating • Fishing • Playground (Source Oklahoma Parks Website)
Unique Landforms around the Black Mesa
Among unusual rock formation in the canyon country of Black Mesa area is one characterized as “The Old Maid’s Profile”. Another is known locally as “The Wedding Party”, represented by huge pinnacles properly positioned as the bride, groom and minister. A massive cluster of smaller pinnacles represents the wedding guests facing the principle characters. (Cimarron Conservation District Guide)
Black Mesa Nature Preserve
Located in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Black Mesa Nature Preserve consists of approximately 1,600 acres. In 1991, the Conservancy conveyed its property to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department with restrictions regarding development and other use. The preserve protects about 60% of the mesa top in Oklahoma in addition to talus slopes and plains habitat. A native granite monument marks the highest point in Oklahoma - 4,973 feet above sea level.
The Black Mesa area supports 31 state rare species (23 plants and 8 animals) and 4 community types. Here, the Rocky Mountains meet the shortgrass prairie and it is unique in that it represents an area where many species are at the easternmost or westernmost portions of their range.
Vegetation on the top of the nearly flat mesa comprises a Bluestem-grama shortgrass community. The mesa's talus slopes support a One-seed juniper/shrub oak community, while similar slopes of neighboring smaller buttes support a one-seed juniper/pinyon woodland community. The plains below the mesa support a shortgrass prairie. Black Mesa is a birder's paradise any time of the year. Golden eagles, scaled quail, black-billed magpies and pinyon jays are just a few of the birds that may be observed. Black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, mule deer and antelope are some of the mammals that may be seen in the mesa region.
The Preserve is open dawn to dusk only. Allow at least four hours to walk from the parking area to the top of the mesa and back. No restrooms are located on the preserve and camping is not allowed, but both are available at Black Mesa State Park, about 15 miles away. For more information, call 1-800-654-8240 or go to the Oklahoma State Parks website. (From the Nature Conservancy’s Web Site)
History of the Black Mesa
The layers of rock which comprise Black Mesa reflect over 140 million years of geological history. The top of the Mesa consists of black lava rock. It is believed that about 30 million years ago this area was blanketed with a basaltic lava flow that originated in the Piney Mountains of present-day southeast Colorado. Molten lava covered an extensive area, flowing down ancient stream and river valleys. Since that time, natural erosion has carved away erodible soils that were beneath the lava cap. The present-day valleys that lay between the region’s mesas are the gaps that have been left as this erodible material has been carried downstream by eons of rain and snowmelt. Significant erosion likely occurred during the Ice Age, when rain and snowfall rates were much greater then today. Black Mesa, which rises about 700 feet above the surrounding plains, is gradually shrinking in size as erosion and gravity slowly slough away the flanks of this ancient landform.
Beneath the black lava cap in descending order but increasing age are: Sands and gravels of the Pliocene Ogallala Group; thick cross-bedded sandstone of the Cretaceous Dakota Group; gray shale and sandstone of the Cretaceous Purgatoire Formation. The Black Mesa region contains the fossilized remains of dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Triassic Periods. Based on the work of paleontologists, it is believed that a variety of dinosaurs lived here as far back as 140 million years ago. This region was a swamp, and featured such plants as giant ferns, cypress and palm-like trees. Among the dinosaurs that roamed this vast area were: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Ornithopoda.
Of a more recent age, yet still over 10,000 years old, are the local bone remains of an extinct horse, mammoths, bison and other Ice Age creatures that were hunted by paleo-indian groups. (Cimarron Packet)
The Town of Kenton
This town was settled in the 1890’s. In its early years, Kenton was booming and progressive, with many businesses and a newspaper. Kenton is the only town in Oklahoma that is on “Mountain
Kenton is home to a small house that is now a museum, but don’t let size throw you off, as it is full of all sorts of area history.
Cimarron Heritage Center
This museum helps preserve the rich history of Cimarron County from the prehistoric through the present. The museum is open Monday through Saturday and is closed on major holidays. Exhibits include: Bruce Goff designed home, exhibits explaining the comprehensive history of county and area, restored Santa Fe Depot and Blacksmith Shop, homestead dugout and windmill exhibit, tractors, vehicles, wagons and buggies, and Chimmy (the metal dinosaur).
Boise City was the first of three known cities in the continental US bombed during World War II. The memorial commemorates this event and is located at the Chamber caboose.
This historic Cimarron county landmark is in the middle of the Boise City traffic circle.
Mormon Battalion Marker
A marker commemorates the Mormon infantry march from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California, during the Mexican-American War.
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This page was last updated
Tuesday, 10-Feb-2009 19:35:29 MST