Open to the Public
Black Mesa Nature Preserve is located in Oklahoma's panhandle along the tri-state border with Colorado and New Mexico. Black Mesa takes its name from the layer of black lava rock that coated the mesa about 30 million years ago. Visitors to the preserve can hike to the top of the plateau, Oklahoma's highest point at 4,973 feet above sea level!
In 1991, the Conservancy conveyed its property to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department with restrictions regarding development and other use. The preserve protects about 60% of the mesa top in Oklahoma in addition to talus slopes and plains habitat. The preserve is located inside the Black Mesa State Park.
The Black Mesa area supports 31 state rare species (23 plants and eight animals) and four community types. Here, the Rocky Mountains meet the shortgrass prairie and it is unique in that it represents an area where many species are at the easternmost or westernmost portions of their range. Vegetation on the top of the nearly flat mesa comprises a Bluestem-grama shortgrass community. The mesa's talus slopes support a one-seed juniper/shrub oak community, while similar slopes of neighboring smaller buttes support a one-seed juniper/pinyon woodland community. The plains below the mesa support a shortgrass prairie. One way to measure the success of efforts to restore biodiversity is to track species. Learn about the species found at Oklahoma's preserves.
Black Mesa is a birder's paradise any time of the year. Golden eagles, scaled quail, black-billed magpies and pinyon jays are just a few of the birds that may be observed. Black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, mule deer, bighorn sheep and antelope are some of the mammals that may be seen in the mesa region.
In addition to being an excellent location for wildlife watching, Black Mesa boasts some of the darkest nighttime skies on publicly accessible land in the country. The dark skies draw countless astronomy enthusiasts to the area every year as they make star gazing ideal. The state park is especially popular each August when the annual Perseid meteor shower is visible. It is one of the most viewed meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere and is best seen from remote areas such as the Oklahoma panhandle.
Black Mesa Nature Preserve is open dawn to dusk only. Allow at least four hours to hike to the top of the mesa from the parking area and back. A restroom is available at the nature preserve trailhead. Although camping is allowed within the state park, no camping is allowed within the nature preserve borders. Hikers need to be prepared for high temperatures during the summer and are advised to bring plenty of water.
- The is preserve owned by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and is open dawn to dusk only.
- Allow at least four hours to walk from the parking area to the top of the mesa and back.
- A restroom is available at the nature preserve trailhead.
- Although camping is allowed within the state park, no camping is allowed within the nature preserve borders.
- Hikers need to be prepared for high temperatures during the summer and are advised to bring plenty of water.
- Located about 15 miles from the nature preserve, Black Mesa State Park is adjacent to Lake Carl Etling and offers RV and tent campsites, picnic facilities, boat ramps, trout fishing in season, a playground, restrooms with showers and a group camp with 12 bunkhouses.
- Approximately 36 RV sites with water and electric hookups and 23 tent sites are available on a first come, first serve basis at Black Mesa State Park.
- For more information, call 1-800-654-8240 or visit the Oklahoma State Parks web site.
- Follow Highway 325 west 35 miles, toward Kenton, to a blacktop road marked "Colorado" and turn north (right). Drive five miles to the preserve parking area on the west side of the road