Refuge History

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) is one of more than 500 National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the purposes of preserving native American wildlife. Originally set aside in 1901 as the Wichita Forest Reserve by President William McKinley, the Refuge was renamed in 1905 by Theodore Roosevelt as the Wichita Game Preserve. On June 4, 1936, Congress officially designated this unique area the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge is located in southwest Oklahoma and covers an area of more than 59,000 acres. The remarkable landscape is dominated by rugged granite mountains, oak forests, and mixed grass prairies. These unspoiled lands provide excellent habitat and protection for herds of bison and elk, and for numerous other native and migratory species. The preservation of this valuable system of grasslands and prairie herds is the purpose of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The 22,400 acre public use portion of the Refuge offers visitors the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and appreciation of the natural environment through direct exposure to wildlife and wildlands. Permitted recreational uses such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, fishing, and wildlife observation provide the public an opportunity to gain a renewed appreciation for and commitment to the value of environmental stewardship.

Within the public use area of the Refuge lies the 5,700 acres Charons Garden Wilderness Area, which received special designation by Congress under the Wilderness Act of 1964. This remote, pristine environment offers Refuge visitors a chance to discover the solitude and adventure offered by wilderness lands.

Refuge Climbing

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) is one of the finest rock climbing areas in the southwest. The Refuge’s high-quality granite, multi-pitch routes, and wilderness setting provide outstanding opportunities for vertical adventures. Thousands of climbing enthusiasts visit the Refuge each year to experience the exceptional climbing found at Mt. Scott, the Narrows, Elk Mountain, Crab Eyes, Lost Dome and other classic sites.

As one of only a few granite climbing areas in this part of the country, the Refuge has an established climbing history dating back more than 50 years. One of the earliest known technical ascents at the Refuge took place in the 1940’s with the first ascent of the route Great Expectations on Elk Slab in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. Today, hundreds of quality routes in the 5.6 to 5.11 difficulty range have been established at the Refuge. A majority of these were done in traditional, ground-up style. And, while there have been a number of “sport” type routes developed at several areas around the early 2000s, the Refuge remains predominantly a traditional climbing area.

Prior to 1996, technical rock climbing had historically been an unregulated activity at the Refuge. Aside from general public use regulations, climbers were allowed to carry out their activities with no restrictions. However, as the popularity of rock climbing began to increase across the country in the late 1980’s, so did the number of climbers visiting the Refuge. Along with this increased usage came noticeable impacts to some areas of the Refuge. Soil erosion, trail degradation, litter, and proliferation of fixed anchors became serious concerns for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, new management policies and regulations for technical rock climbing went into effect in May of 1996 to insure that climbing resources and the natural environment of the Refuge were protected.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition, rock climbing remains a valuable and compatible recreational use of the Refuge, providing thousands of visitors each year with the opportunity to experience outstanding climbing adventures in a unique wilderness setting.

For more information about rock climbing at the Refuge, contact the WMCC.

For detailed climbing history, technical information, and route descriptions, purchase a copy of “The Oklahoma Climber’s Guide” by Chuck Lohn, “Oklahoma Select, A Climbers Guide” by Tony Mayse, and “Refuge Bouldering” by Ryan Sheldon.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Route 1, Box 448
Indiahoma, OK 73552

Statement of Non-Liability for Climbing and Fixed Anchors

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition (WMCC), and the WMCC’s Advisory Bolting Committee (ABC) review fixed anchor applications and make recommendations concerning fixed anchors based upon aesthetic and natural resource criteria. The USFWS, WMCC, and ABC make no representations or warranties regarding the safety, reliability or suitability for use of any fixed anchors or other hardware, currently existing or installed in the future, on any climbing route in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). Moreover, the USFWS, WMCC, and ABC make no representations or warranties regarding the degree of hazard or danger involved, or lack thereof, on any rock climbing route in the Refuge. Rock climbing is a dangerous activity and the individual climber must personally make all decisions regarding his or her own safety while climbing.