5 unique things to do near Pawnee, Oklahoma

Pawnee Bill’s original “Wild West Show” returns June 8-9.

A famous fictitious detective and a showman cowboy are just two of the attractions tourists will find in Pawnee. The town is the seat of Pawnee County, where the courthouse anchors the town square.

1. Celebrate a famous fictional detective

Additionally, a large Dick Tracy mural lets visitors know that this small town of approximately 2,000 is the hometown of Chester Gould, the creator of the 87-year-old comic strip. On the west side of the square, a museum celebrates the detective and houses the Pawnee County Historical Society.

2. Enjoy a delicious steak

Southeast of the square is Click’s, a steakhouse that traces its history to 1962. Although owners have changed over the years, the steaks are still cooked the same way — a large cut sprinkled with a special spice recipe and cooked on a flat-top grill.

Their method translates into a truly delicious meal. Click’s is no secret, so if you stop by during peak times, you might have to wait a little bit.

3. Take a step back in time to the Wild West

Pawnee also is the site of the mansion, museum and ranch of Wild West entertainer Gordon W. "Pawnee Bill" Lillie.

Tours are available through the 1910 home, which contains original furniture and other memorabilia. The on-site museum is dedicated to Pawnee Bill, his "Wild West Show" and the Pawnee Nation. The 500-acre ranch includes a bison herd and other livestock. Most of the sites are open year-round and host special events.

Every June, the ranch holds a large festival that re-enacts the original Pawnee Bill "Wild West Show" complete with blacksmiths, musicians and other performers. It’s June 8-9 this year.

4. Take a swim in a unique sandstone bathhouse

If you want to take a swim, a 1939 sandstone bathhouse sits just north of town next to Pawnee Lake. It’s open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and is often full of locals cooling off in the 2-acre pool. The grounds are beautifully kept; it’s a great place to stretch the legs.

5. Experience a town seemingly untouched by time

Rural explorers should make some time to visit the ghost town of Skedee about 10 miles northeast of Pawnee. A few dozen people still live there, but it hasn’t had a post office since the early 1960s.

The focal point of what’s left is a statue in the middle of the only real intersection. It was commissioned in 1926 to commemorate the friendship between the Osage Tribe and resident Colonel Ellsworth Walters, an early 20th century oilfield auctioneer who made millions for the tribe by auctioning mineral leases.

The intersection is a fascinating place in Skedee to stand and observe a place that hasn’t changed much over the past few decades.

Rhys Martin is a photographer and author from Tulsa. He also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. Facebook: Cloudless Lens

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