About Us

Rising above the plains of Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains are a testament to the strength of ancient granite mountains. This unconquerable stone defeated the plow protecting one of the last remnants of the mixed grass prairie and providing habitat for bison, elk, white-tailed deer, and a variety of other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. From birding and biking, to hiking and hunting, the diversity of the landscape within the Public Use Area offers ample opportunities for recreation. 

Wichita Mountains is one of the oldest, most prestigious national wildlife refuges in America. Set aside in 1901, Wichita Mountains was originally established a forest reserve. President Theodore Roosevelt redesignated the area in 1905 as the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve created “for the protection of game animals and birds and shall be recognized as a breeding place thereof.” Encompassing 59,020 acres (about 90 square miles), the refuge manages 22,400 acres for public use and 8,570 acres of Wilderness. Wichita Mountains and all refuges across the country are closed to all uses unless specifically permitted. Help protect your public lands and this priceless ecological treasure by following established rules and regulations. 

Our Mission

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. 

Our Purpose

Every national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
was created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. 

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was established “for the protection of game animals and birds and shall be recognized as a breeding place thereof.” Preservation of Wilderness is also a purpose for those portions of the refuge designated as Wilderness. 

Our History

1901—The refuge is established as a Forest Reserve by President William McKinley.  

June 2, 1905—President Theodore Roosevelt further designates the area as the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve by presidential proclamation.  

October 1907—Bison were brought back to the Wichita Mountains. 

1908 – The Rocky Mountain Elk herd was introduced to the refuge. 

August 1927—The longhorn herd was established.  

June 1936—The Wichita Forest and Game Preserve, administered by the U.S. Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture, was transferred to the Bureau of Biological Survey, one of the predecessor agencies of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Department of the Interior. Shortly thereafter, the area was renamed the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for administration under the National Wildlife Refuge System.  

October 23, 1970—The Wichita Mountains Wilderness was established by Public Law 91-504, consisting of the Charons Garden Unit and North Mountain Unit.