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 this property to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department with restrictions regarding development and other use. The preserve is located inside the Black Mesa State Park and protects about 60% of the mesa top in Oklahoma in addition to talus slopes and plains habitat.
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.
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.