I’ve found a magical place just a few miles outside of Tulsa: The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve in Catoosa, Oklahoma (click here for directions). The preserve is home to many interesting types of plant and wildlife and also hosts a great hiking trail. It was a great treat for me to discover such a beautiful outdoor spot right in my own backyard of Tulsa.
Redbud Valley was originally purchased by The Nature Conservancy in the late 1960’s. Dr. Harriet Barclay was a professor at the University of Tulsa, and she spearheaded the effort to have it acquired, then worked with The Tulsa Tribune on a fund drive to raise the necessary money to repay The Nature Conservancy. TU maintained the property until the area was transferred to the City of Tulsa in 1990, and it is now managed as a part of Oxley Nature Center in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy. Under guidance from The Friends of Oxley Nature Center, the caretaker’s house was renovated and the Barclay Visitor’s Center created. (Source: http://www.oxleynaturecenter.org/redbud.htm)
Among the plant life you may see along your hike are prickly pear cactus, Yucca, Smoke Tree, and Deciduous Holly. I also saw plenty of birds and squirrels, and fortunately, no snakes, though the area is prone to reptiles.
The ecosystem at Redbud Valley is unlike anything I’ve seen in Oklahoma. The habitat was created where Bird Creek and its tributaries cut through a thick limestone layer. This has resulted in valleys edged with impressively tall limestone cliffs. The limestone has been dissolved by water to create several small caves and springs. The caves are sort of like small versions of what you might find when hiking Devil’s Den in Arkansas.
The area is open Wednesdays though Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The staff member working inside the Harriet Barclay Visitor’s Center, which is open from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., was very knowledgeable and shared all about the interesting geology and plant life in the area. She also said the best time to hike the trails is from April to June, so now is the perfect time to get out and explore some rugged Oklahoma beauty!
- Wear good hiking or tennis shoes. (I’m not really sure what I was thinking wearing my pink sparkly Tom’s, but they definitely weren’t the best for the trails!)
- Bring your camera, or at least your cell phone camera!
- Give yourself plenty of time! You will probably want a couple of hours to explore the trails, so arrive no later than 3 p.m.
- Wear bug spray. Yes, this is Oklahoma, so chiggers, ticks, and other creepy crawlies are common!
Now get out and enjoy the great outdoors!