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Oklahoma Travel Guide

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Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. © Nyttend

While it may lack the rugged canyons and pastel skies of New Mexico or Arizona, Oklahoma has a certain stark, severe beauty, which is unsurprisingly accompanied by a distinct frontier identity - very much a legacy of the Old West. Indeed, when one thinks of Oklahoma, one might conjure images of cowboys and Native American culture.

The state has the largest Native American population in the United States today, as well as a strong African-American heritage. Both of these cultural presences allow visitors to immerse themselves in the state's rich history and partake in fascinating cultural experiences.

Powwows, craft festivals, and traditional storytelling all signify the great cultural history of Oklahoma, and many events pay homage to the cowboys of yore, with around a 100 rodeos taking place in Oklahoma each year.

It's easy to mistake Oklahoma for having a monotonous topography. In truth, it's a massive state, and the flat, fertile land of the central region only constitutes one part of its diverse terrain. In the east, the prairies give way to rugged mountains, dense forests and hundreds of postcard-pretty lakes. This region is a favourite with climbing and rappelling enthusiasts, hikers and equestrians today, but also has some historical significance as, during the Wild West era, 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, with fly-fishing and boating opportunities making it a favoured holiday spot.

In the north, the grasslands make way for one of Oklahoma's most intriguing natural wonders: the Great Salt Plains, a literal 8,690-acre sea of salt. In the west lie the Beaver Dunes, where adventurous visitors can rev up dune buggies or ARVs and race down sandy slopes.

Anyone in search of travel kitsch will find landmarks in roadside architecture, including the Blue Whale and Totem Pole Park. There are also well-preserved architectural gems, remnants of the Oklahoma oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s. The Oklahoma City National Memorial, which honours all the victims, rescuers and survivors of the horrific 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, is also a popular stop among visitors.

Oklahoma as a whole is conservative and inspires nostalgia for a simpler time. It sees thousands of visitors each year, particularly those who want to get a sense of a bygone era, learn about ancient American cultures, or just get some fresh air on the vast plains and natural splendour of the beautiful southern state.

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