America's Scenic Byways

Wichita Mountains Byway

93 miles - at least 2 hours

A natural beauty capable of astonishing even well-traveled visitors, the Wichita Mountains Byway guides you through the protected valleys of the 550 million-year-old Wichita Mountains, which shelter the largest remnant block of southern mixed grassland and ancient cross-timbers in North America. Experience the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, one of the oldest managed nature preserves in the Nation and the site that President Theodore Roosevelt chose for the first effort to save American bison from extinction.

In 1901, this area was proclaimed a “Forest Preserve,” and then in 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first “Game Preserve” at the Wichita Mountains for the nearly-extinct bison. Today, the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge maintains a herd of 600 bison, descendants of the original 15 transported from the Bronx Zoo in 1907. In addition to the bison the refuge also manages a herd of 800 elk and about 400 wild turkeys. The Black-Capped Vireo, a small species of bird historically indigenous to the area from Kansas to central Texas, now resides primarily within the refuge. With about 3,000 breeding pairs, the refuge houses one of the two remaining large populations of Black-Capped Vireo in the world.

The 35-square-mile Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is considered to be the largest remnant block of Central and Southern Mixed Grassland in North America and has attracted more than one million annual visitors every year since 1962.