Stop 19: Elk City Lake

Directions: Continue west on OK 33 to its intersection with OK 34 South. Continue into Elk City, and take I-40 West to the exit for Quartz Mountain and OK 6. Follow OK 6 South for a short distance to Elk City Lake, on the right.

Throughout the drive from the Washita NWR to Elk City Lake, keep an eye out for Common Nighthawks, which will occasionally sit atop fenceposts, and remain calmly seated to allow for up-close photography. This urban lake covers 250 acres, and is part of a 750-acre park tract. Snags in the lake attract a variety of woodpeckers including Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Cattle Egret can also be seen in and around the lake. Check the muddy edges, particularly during migrations, for shorebirds. Least Sandpiper, Killdeer, Stilt Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, dowitchers, avocets, Willet, Solitary Sandpiper, and the occasional snipe or Pectoral Sandpiper may be seen here. Early morning at the lake provides beautiful sunrise vistas, and picnic benches make this an excellent retreat from the Interstate. A 12-mile cycling trail runs the perimeter of the lake, and a short walk will take visitors into cottonwood, locust, and hackberry groves that provide excellent cover and food for cardinals, thrashers, the occasional thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, warblers and vireos during migration. After crossing the dry creek, a fence borders the park property with a water retention pond where migratory and wintering waterfowl can be found from late fall through early spring. Teal, Gadwall, and raccoons all occur here.

The grassland areas bordering the bike trail are interspersed with the purple blooms of dotted gayfeather, which attracts a variety of butterflies. Wild Turkey also live on the tract, and a variety of grassland sparrows can be expected here as well. The mixture of wooded thickets, shale hills, mixed shortgrass prairie, and farmland edge habitat around the perimeter of the park property make this an attractive and interesting site.

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black kettle grassland