Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. © Nyttend
Oklahoma is a state of indeterminate location and character. While it may lack the rugged canyons and pastel skies of New Mexico or Arizona, Oklahoma's identity is distinct and very much a legacy of the Old West. Today Oklahoma has the second largest Indian population in the United States, and also has a strong African-American heritage. Both of these populations provide visitors with rich cultural history and experiences.
Encounters such as powwows, craft festivals and traditional storytelling all signify the great cultural history which Oklahoma offers its visitors. Events also pay homage to the cowboys of history, with more than 100 rodeos taking place in Oklahoma each year in which modern-day cowboys compete in calf-roping, steer-wrestling and bull-riding events.
The flat, fertile land of the central region is only one part of Oklahoma's diverse terrain. In the east, the prairies give way to rugged mountains and dense forests. This region, today a favourite of rappellers, hikers and equestrians, was once a favourite of outlaws as well. Robbers Cave State Park served as a hideout for such notorious fugitives as Jesse James and Belle Starr. The Broken Bow area is also popular with lovers of the outdoors. Its fly-fishing and boating opportunities also make it a top holiday spot. In the north, the grasslands shift again into one of Oklahoma's most intriguing natural wonders, the Great Salt Plains, literally an 8,690-acre sea of salt, and in the west lie the Beaver Dunes, where adventurous visitors can rev up dune buggies or ARVs and race down sandy slopes.
While Oklahoma as a whole tends to be conservative and inspires nostalgia for a slower pace and simpler life, sophistication is not precluded. The vision and sensitivity with which the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum were established, in honour of those who died in the 1995 bombing, attest to this. So do the state's well-preserved architectural gems, remnants of the Oklahoma oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s. Visitors in search of travel kitsch will find landmarks in roadside architecture, including the Blue Whale and Totem Pole Park.
It is safe to say that Oklahoma is a destination offering visitors culture, history and a great feeling of the Old West.