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Deep Fork
National Wildlife Refuge

The scene of the bottomland hardwood forest can be viewed at the Deep Fork NWR boardwalk.
P.O. Box 816
Okmulgee, OK   74447
E-mail: lori_jones@fws.gov
Phone Number: 918-652-0456
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Deep Fork NWR is comprised of bottomland hardwood forests.
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Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge
The east-central Oklahoma landscape provides a backdrop of lush hardwood forests surrounding oxbow lakes, with a meandering river winding through bottomland forests. Upland prairies and cast iron forests make up the precious habitat remnants of the vanishing Oklahoma ecosystem found at Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge. The 9,600-acre Refuge is one of more than 550 refuges throughout the United States managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These refuges provide an oasis for resident and migratory wildlife and are places visitors are encouraged to come and enjoy the outdoors while communing with nature.

A relative newcomer to the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Refuge was established in 1993. With its proximity to the Deep Fork River, the Refuge is subject to flooding at least once a year.

Many resident and migratory animals use the Refuge. The Refuge hosts 4 great blue heron and egret rookeries. Migrating waterfowl call the Refuge home during the winter months. White-tailed deer, turkey, squirrel, opossum, cottontail rabbits, and swamp rabbits can be viewed at the Refuge. Turkey vultures, American bald eagles, and red-tailed hawks soar above the winding ribbon of water that makes up the Deep Fork River basin.

The Refuge is bounded on the northwest corner by the Okmulgee Wildlife Management Unit and on the southeast corner by the Eufaula Wildlife Management Unit both operated by the State of Oklahoma. The Refuge continues to acquire land from willing sellers and will encompass 18,359 acres when all the lands within the acquisition boundary are purchased. The lands within the Refuge’s acquisition boundary are a patchwork of ownership between the Service and private landowners. Most of the Refuge property is fenced and signed.

The Refuge allows recreation on most areas of the Refuge where there is access to the lands. The two main recreation areas on the Refuge are located south of Okmulgee at the Montezuma Creek parking area and the Cussetah Bottoms Boardwalk area. Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, interpretation, and environmental education are primary recreational activities supported by the Refuge.

Getting There . . .
The Refuge is located in Okmulgee County, 35 miles south of Tulsa and approximately 100 miles east of Oklahoma City.

To reach the current Headquarters Office: take Highway 75 to Okmulgee, take 6th Street west to Grand. On Grand, travel north to 4th Street. The Headquarters Office is located in the Post Office at 111 West 4th Street, Room 318.

To reach Montezuma Creek parking area: take Highway 75 south of Okmulgee approximately 4.5 miles. Turn left into the parking lot.

To reach Cussteah Bottoms boardwalk area: take Highway 75 south of Okmulgee approximately 6 miles. Turn left on Lavendar Road (across from Schulter, OK). Follow Lavendar Road approximately 1 mile to the dead end at South 250 Road. Turn left (north) and follow South 250 Road approximately 2.5 miles to the Pawhuska Parking Area. There is an asphalt trail that will lead visitors to the boardwalk through the bottomland hardwood forest.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Approximately 85 percent of the Refuge is bottomland hardwood forest. Major tree species in the wetland areas include bur oak, southern red oak, pin oak, shumard oak, black walnut, dogwood, redbud, persimmon, and pecan. Upland areas are comprised of native prairie and post oak and blackjack oak forests.

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Written journals from early explorers provide much of the knowledge of the conditions that existed on the Refuge lands prior to settlement by United States’ citizens. The Deep Fork River bottoms supported wildlife in abundance. Frontiersmen reported bear, wolves, bobcat, elk, foxes, raccoons, skunks, opossum, and beaver. White-tailed deer abounded in the river bottoms, and vast herds of strange “hunchback cows” roamed the prairies. Turkey, quail, and prairie chickens were abundant. Woodpeckers, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, flourished in the floodplains.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
The Refuge staff currently manages this bottomland hardwood forest using prescribed fire, water level manipulation, pest control, hunting, and water quality monitoring. Prescribed fire is used to decrease the amount of debris (dead leaves, dead tree limbs etc which provides fuel for wild fires); recycle nutrients; stimulate new vegetative growth; and control invasive plant populations.

Pest control for beavers and feral hogs is important on the Refuge as the bottomland hardwood forests are very sensitive to water quality and quantity. Controlling beavers and beaver dams is essential to ensuring the health of the trees in the forest. Most of the tree species found here can adjust to having their roots under water for short periods of time. Some trees may die if their roots are under water for an extended period of time.

Feral hogs are destructive animals. They degrade habitat with their rooting and wallowing. They compete for food with other wildlife species. They are non-selective feeders and they will eat almost anything. Feral hogs will eat any kind of eggs, baby birds, the young of other animals as well as small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and mice. Feral hogs also carry diseases that can infiltrate other wildlife populations as well as the human population. Feral hogs are prolific reproducers having 1-2 litter(s) per year with up to 13 piglets in each litter. Sows are able to reproduce at 7-8 months of age.

The Refuge controls water at the Waterfowl Sanctuary and the Gillum Tract of the Refuge. Releasing water in the spring and summer allows sedges, millet, and other duck food to flourish. Retaining water in the winter provides open water for waterfowl. This allows them a place to loaf and feed in relative safety.