4 unique, only-in-Oklahoma sites to discover
August can be a hot month in the Sooner state, but if the weather cooperates there are a few outdoor experiences that make for a fun trip northeast of Tulsa.
1. The Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch
On the outskirts of Oologah, a beautiful two-story house overlooks the lake. It’s the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch, a homestead that pre-dates statehood.
Will Rogers was born there in 1879; due to its historical significance, his home has been preserved and provides an authentic look at frontier life.
It’s still an active ranch, too, with 400 acres dedicated to cattle and other livestock. It’s a great place for a picnic, and there’s a scenic trail for hikers. Interestingly, the land the house is on today is about a mile away from the original ranch site; it was moved in the 1960s due to the creation of Lake Oologah.
On Aug. 11, the Birthplace Ranch also is the site of the annual Will Rogers and Wiley Post Fly-In. Over 100 aircraft of all kinds fly in over the lake to land at the ranch’s grass airstrip. There are inflatable games, Cherokee storytellers, food trucks, a car show and, of course, the Birthplace Ranch to tour.
2. Winganon Space Capsule
One of Oklahoma’s wackiest roadside attractions is a bit farther north, just east of Highway 169. Take East 300 Road for about a mile and you’ll encounter the Winganon Space Capsule. Back in the 1950s, a cement mixer crashed on this two-lane county road. By the time the wreck was cleaned up, the concrete had hardened, and the rotating drum was left on the side of the road. The mixer still sits there today and has been transformed by locals to look like a crashed spacecraft. It’s a fun photo op.
3. Diamond Point School
Another county road — E0245 Road — near Nowata is home to the Diamond Point School, an early 20th-century schoolhouse that was restored in the mid-1990s. The schoolyard includes the original playground equipment, including an old wooden merry-go-round. It’s open by appointment only, but feel free to walk around the yard on your own. It is on a gravel road and in the countryside, so be careful of any critters that might be around.
4. Chris Barbee’s Bowling Ball Yard
There’s one more unusual spot north of Nowata that deserves a visit. On E021 Road, east of the highway, is Chris Barbee’s Bowling Ball Yard. For more than two decades, Barbee has collected old bowling balls and created sculptures in his yard. What started with about a dozen retired rollers is now a menagerie of hundreds. There’s a giant rosary, an oversized pool table, a pyramid and many more inventive creations. Barbee encourages people to come by and take pictures. If he’s home, he’ll even tell you stories about some of his works. It’s a real “Only in Oklahoma” kind of place.