Rugged terrain, rolling hills and rich history are hallmarks of Tulsa’s lush surrounds. Just north of Oklahoma’s second largest city lies the homeland of the Osage Indian Nation, steeped in ancient historical significance and immaculate natural beauty. It’s well worth dragging yourself away from the bright lights and buzz of Tulsa to experience a more peaceful side to the region, and both Pawhuska and Bartlesville are a short drive away, allowing you to spend an action-packed day out of town before heading back into the fold of the big city.
The remnants and relics of the Osage Indian Nation are forever embedded into the fabric of the region. Their presence and influence remains an important part of the area’s roots and a fascinating reason to explore the many landmarks and vestiges of an indigenous past whilst staying in Tulsa.
Walking the streets of Pawhuska is like walking through a living, breathing museum; it’s a place where 86 of 98 downtown buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Based in the area is the Osage Tribal Museum, the oldest tribal museum in the United States. Offering invaluable insight into the native heritage of the Osage Indians, visitors can work their way through the small yet comprehensive display of artefacts. From historic photography to examples of traditional dress, there are over 6000 objects in total housed within the museum, not to mention a wealth of documentation and recorded oral histories that provide a rich and unique example of the Osage Nation’s captivating past.
With Bartlesville nearby it’s worth heading into the town to take part in the Historic Cherokee Avenue Walking Tour 401 S. Johnstone Ave, which takes in the cultural and architectural history of the area including the downtown home of local entrepreneur Frank Phillips, which now operates as a museum. Many place names and buildings have a direct connection to the Osage Indian Nation’s story, the Bartlesville Area History Museum offers a wealth of information and will point you in the right direction if there are specific details you’re looking to uncover.
A shining example of Oklahoma’s natural beauty, spanning over 1000 acres, the Osage Hills State Park sits majestically among the rolling hills. What was once an ancient Osage settlement is now a Mecca for hikers, mountain bikers and those just seeking solace in the area’s tranquil and serene beauty. The fertile, lush greenery and rocky bluffs are home to an array of wildlife, making this a popular spot for avid anglers looking to fish for bass or catfish and birdwatchers. If you’re really lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the wild white-tailed deer or turkeys that roam the park. It’s worth trying to stay in one of the eight private cabins for an authentic wilderness experience. All come fitted with modern and comfortable bathhouses and kitchen facilities, and each cabin comes complete with a functioning fireplace, making it a cosy and comfortable retreat away from the city.
For budding conservationists and bird watchers a trip to Tallgrass Prairie Preserve should also be on the cards. As the largest native prairie of its kind, there’s an abundance of great bird watching opportunities. Using the intricate hike trail system, visitors will be able to navigate the many cross timbers and abundant forestland in the area.
Take a twenty-minute drive from Bartlesville and you’ll arrive at the stunning Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve. The two-mile journey to the main grounds and building is a sight to behold. Established in 1925 as the ranch retreat of oil magnate Frank Phillips, the rugged landscape spans 3,700-acres and is home to buffalo, elk and a vast range of other wildlife.
Once at the main complex, visitors can spend the day exploring the numerous walking trails around the grounds and observing the impressive collection of western and Native American artefacts, art and objects. A haven for kids, the preserve hosts an annual Kidsfest, (taking place this year on 28 June) where a number of arts, crafts and nature activities are set up with children in mind, offering an entertaining education about the history of Woolaroc and the principles it stands for.
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Have you visited the land of the Osage Indian nation? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Chantelle Symester