The Blue River at Oka' Yanahli Preserve
The Blue River at Oka' Yanahli Preserve © Mike Fuhr/TNC

Places We Protect



Oka’ Yanahli Preserve is along two miles of the Blue River, one of only two free-flowing rivers in Oklahoma


Oka’ Yanahli Preserve protects nearly 3,600 acres of native prairie and is along one-mile of the Blue River, an iconic symbol of natural beauty and a precious resource for life and economic development in southern Oklahoma, a resource worth protecting and preserving.

It has shaped the human history of Oklahoma and continues to be a source of life and biodiversity. The Blue River and the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, which sustains the river, are globally significant for the wide assortment of endemic life they support. The Blue River basin encompasses a variety of freshwater ecosystems, from rolling limestone prairies to oak forests in granite canyons to bottomland hardwood forests. An astonishing array of plant and animal species depend on a healthy, sustainable Blue River basin, including the Blue River subspecies of orangebelly darter, orangethroat darter and least darter; ringed crayfish; rabbitsfoot mussel; chatterbox orchid; bald eagle, prothotary warbler and dozens of species of migrating birds. Seaside alder, found only in three widely disjunct parts of the United States—and arguably the rarest tree in North America—is more abundant on this river than anywhere else.

It is also a critical source of water for human needs. In addition to providing for agricultural needs, the river sustains the city of Durant. Ranked the fastest growing rural city in Oklahoma, Durant is home to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the headquarters of the Choctaw Na!on of Oklahoma.

Oka’ Yanahli [oh-kuh yuh-naw-lee] means “flowing water” in Chickasaw.

What the Conservancy is doing now is launching a series of on-the-ground projects to:

The Conservancy is also actively pursuing conservation easements up and down the river corridor and encouraging landowners to adopt methods that will enhance the quantity and quality of the water in the Blue River.

A healthy water system is important for fish and wildlife as well as people. It is also critical to the local and regional economy. The Nature Conservancy believes that human needs can be met without sacrificing the health of the freshwater systems upon which all life depends and the Blue River offers a perfect example of conservation for people and nature.

Our work on the Blue River will provide a template for restoration, sustainable use, education and protection. We will continue bringing partners together to synchronize their actions in a way that will sustain the natural environment while providing water for people. At a time when the entire region is concerned about the future of its freshwater supply, this project can set the bar for the state on collaborative water conservation.

Approximately 97% of the Blue River watershed is privately owned; nonetheless, we aspire to create a resilient water supply for all users. It is imperative, therefore, to use Oka’ Yanahli Preserve to inspire voluntary conservation on private lands both upstream and downstream. The Oklahoma Chapter of The Nature Conservancy will use the preserve to demonstrate to local landowners how simple and cost-effective techniques can both safeguard their business interests and lead to big benefits to both people and nature.

Learn more about our efforts to protect the waters of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer,

Access is limited to personnel and is open for public visitation during events hosted by The Nature Conservancy such as our field trips.

The Nature Conservancy Acquires More Than 3,000 Acres of Native Prairie Along Blue River in the Arbuckle Plains

This effort benefits water quantity and quality, conserves a critical piece of disappearing grasslands, and creates opportunity for future home for bison.

Volunteer Clean Ups Along the Blue River

Volunteers lead a hand to nature along the Blue River at Oka' Yanahli Preserve!

OKC Positive Tomorrows Students Use Digital Cameras to Explore Nature Along Southern Oklahoma’s Blue River

Twenty-four homeless students from Oklahoma City’s Positive Tomorrows elementary school visited the Blue River at The Nature Conservancy’s Oka’ Yanahli Preserve.