Euclidean Distance from Nearest Road: 2.7 miles
Distance from Nearest Trail: 2.7 miles
Travel Method: Hiking
Hiking Distance One-Way: 3.3 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: Yes
Public Land: Yes, Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge
Something We Learned: The ground (aka salt) of a salt plain tastes really good!
Project Remote is working to precisely calculate and travel to the remotest locations in each of the 50 United States. Below is a written account of our 6.2 mile hiking expedition to document the Oklahoma Remote Spot. This is our 35th state Remote Spot documented as part of Project Remote.
In Ryan’s Words:
Late November, 2017. After finishing documenting the Nebraska Remote Spot, we visit our good friends, the Hutchens, in NW Nebraska for a couple day rest. Thank you Steve and Suzan! Record warmth continues across the Plains states. We make our way south toward Oklahoma in hopes of documenting the OK Remote Spot in a few days. While traveling the country, we try to find public lands on which to camp. We find a place in somewhere, Kansas to car camp tonight.
Project Remote 2017 camps out in the Great Plains
We awaken the next morning to a sweet sunrise on the Kansas Plains.
Sunrise on the Kansas Plains-Project Remote 2017
Time to roll. The journey across the Plains looks a bit different today than it did a century ago.
roads blanket the American Great Plains
I spend most of the time traveling between Remote Spots shocked and disappointed. We have altered our once vast American wilderness into an endless view of industry and infrastructure. Nowhere is this more visible than during a drive through the Great Plains. Here’s what it looks like from the air looking down upon anywhere in the Plains.
Massively altered Kansas landscape viewed from the air.
On the ground, this is what it looks like now. Several industries completely dominate the landscape, including the beef industry,
beef industry in the American Great Plains
the mega-agriculture industry,
Mega-agriculture in the American Great Plains
and, of course, the oil industry is ever-present. But honestly, if we are going to continue to drill for oil, there is really no better place to do it than within already-altered, privately owned lands. What better place than a crop field in Kansas or Oklahoma should we place these unsightly reminders of our unsustainable consumption?
Oil industry in the American Great Plains
Now that I mention it, let me be quite clear: in absolutely no cases should the oil industry ever be allowed to penetrate existing publicly owned wildlands. (For example, especially not in a place like Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.). The National Wildlife Refuge system exists solely to preserve wildlife and wildlands, not to put short-term wealth in the wallets of a few companies at the expense of remaining wildlife and wilderness.
Scores of wind farms are popping up across the Great Plains as well. And it’s a suitable place for them, just as with oil derricks.
Wind farm in the American Great Plains–a great place for them
I have heard an argument against using wind farms for energy based solely on their unsightly appearance. Actually, as we traverse the Plains, both oil and wind infrastructure are pretty ugly. At least one of them is sustainable and would not pollute the biosphere into oblivion. Sustainable, clean wind and solar derived energy need to replace filthy, unsustainable oil. In the Plains, we’ve seen hopeful signs of sustainable energy gaining ground on oil.
Sustainable energy hope for America and the world–wind and solar should replace oil
When we look up to the skies on our Project Remote travels, this is what we commonly see–contrails criss-cross the American skies–even over America’s remotest locations. We had better hurry up as a nation and cut our dependence on oil before irreversible damage occurs to the biosphere and atmosphere. Wanted in America: Intelligent, moral leaders who care about preserving all that is remote, wild, and free. Let’s plot a course into sustainable American greatness.
contrails slice the upper troposhere all across America-(photo courtesy of limpidoistock and smithsonian.com)
As we make our way south to Oklahoma from Nebraska, there are almost zero inspiring, intact wild places to experience. I am saddened for all the children growing up in the once Great Plains, or anywhere else so un-wild, because they have no immediate access to public wild areas.
November 28, 2017. Give me something remote and wild. Anything. We awaken at camp within the Great Salt Plains State Park, Oklahoma. We pulled into a campsite here last night after dark and pitched our tent in a cold, blustery wind. It’s hard to imagine that there is a large, nearly 6 mile wide roadless area adjacent to where we are camping. But I can feel it out there. The Oklahoma Remote Spot is inside of 5 miles away from our campsite within a national public wildland called the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. How fitting. This isn’t the first time a state Remote Spot has been located within a national wildlife refuge. In fact, seven other states thus far on Project Remote have Remote Spots residing within national wildlife refuges. That’s fantastic. We commend the USFWS for preserving the remotest locations of at least 8 states. First order of business this morning is packing for a Remote Spot day-hike. Next, we eagerly visit the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge headquarters and meet the refuge manager, Shane Kasson. It is all our pleasure to meet this delightful, helpful conservation professional. Shane is a wealth of knowledge about the refuge and accompanies us on much of our documentary trip. Thank you, Shane!
Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge manager Shane Kasson accompanies Project Remote near the Oklahoma Remote Spot
As we enter the refuge, there is a mix of shrubs and grasses along the edge of the salt flat. We also spot an exotic, invasive shrubby tree from Asia called salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), which is naturalized in this region, and over much of the Southwest.
Salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima), an exotic plant, is naturalized within the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge
After about a half mile, we step out onto the vast, flat, white plain.
Project Remote travels to the Oklahoma Remote Spot-2017
The Salt Plain of Oklahoma is a significant geological and ecological feature. This unique patch of preserved wildland is critical habitat for the endangered whooping crane, as well as important habitat for hundreds of other bird species. Animal tracks, such as those left by deer, are common….
deer tracks across the Salt Plain of Oklahoma
Maybe the animals are after the salt…It certainly tastes good!
tasting the salt of the Oklahoma salt plain
We push on toward the center of the salt plain. The salt is an ancient deposit left behind after the disappearance of the shallow inland Cretaceous sea that once covered almost all of the Great Plains.
Project Remote 2017 heads toward the remotest location in Oklahoma
We encounter old human buildings lying in ruins deep inside the salt plain interior. We also learn that the salt flat was once used as a U.S. military bombing range.
past human buildings lie within the salt plain of Oklahoma
As we move along the salt flat, we frequently encounter century-old rubbish piles left behind by past human habitation.
rubbish piles from past human habitation can be found within Oklahoma’s salt plain
This is an otherworldly place reminiscent of much larger saline flats found in the Great Basin. Even out toward the center of the otherwise barren flat, we find an occasional vegetation patch, and observe shorebirds. Skyla delights in finding anything on the ground. There is a salty lake nearby to the east and south.
Skyla often runs out ahead in excitement…This place is unreal, like what you see while dreaming during sleep….
The remotest little girl in Oklahoma…Skyla Means of Project Remote-2017
Daddy and daughter enjoy a little togetherness while day hiking to document the remotest location in Oklahoma. . .
Daddy and daughter enjoy togetherness near the Oklahoma Remote Spot
After a nearly 2-hour hike, we approach the remotest location in the entire state of Oklahoma located within the center of the Great Salt Plain of Oklahoma,preserved within the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
Project Remote approaches the Oklahoma Remote Spot
The hand-held GPS goes beep as we reach the remotest location in the entire state of Oklahoma. Remote Spot arrivals always get us excited. No one in history has ever calculated precisely the whereabouts, then journeyed to the remotest locations of all 50 United States. We don’t just do it for kicks. It is our greatest wish to raise a child outdoors, learn something about remaining remoteness of our country, and pass along our interesting findings to fellow Americans such that they–we–can better understand that wildlands preservation is in the best interest of all people and all other living things.
Project Remote reaches the Oklahoma Remote Spot-November 2017
Just days after returning home from documenting the Oklahoma Remote Spot in November 2017, Ryan drops the hard drive with the ONLY copies of photos and videos from our Oklahoma Remote Spot expedition (and Nebraska)!!!! Drat!
September 13, 2019. So here we go again…back to the Oklahoma Remote Spot. It’s two years after our first documentation. Our mission today is to obtain precious photo and video from the remotest location of Oklahoma since we lost most of our prior documentary media. It is a great day for another adventure. It so happens to be Rebecca’s birthday today.
Today offers a unique opportunity for us to visit and document a state remote spot a second time. We wonder how observations and conditions may compare to last visit nearly two years ago.
We obtain permission from the refuge manager once again to hike into and out of the center of the Salt Plain. We begin exactly where we started last time, on the west side of the refuge, headed into the center eastward. A cool front passed last night with thunderstorms and dumped a decent rain on the area. W hope that rain hasn’t raised water levels in creeks or on the plain enough to preclude today’s mission. There’s only one way to find out. Upon embarkation, we surmise that creeks are still passable, and that the area hasn’t flooded too much.
But there still is some creek walking and crossing.
Salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima) is a prevalent woody shrub on the edge of the Salt Plain. It had been introduced from Asia long ago and has established in many arid parts of the American Southwest.
Something scurries. I look down and exclaim: “HORNY TOAD!!!” Skyla runs over to see it. Everyone screams! It is the first Texas horned lizard Phrynosoma cornutum) any of us have ever seen in the wild. This one is a juvenile. This species is the state reptile of Texas, and occurs across most of Texas and Oklahoma westward across southern NM and much of northern Mexico. I have heard that it is declining or absent now across much of its range. There are efforts to reintroduce it back into the wild in parts of Texas, and we applaud such efforts. This family works to do just that with another ailing North American vertebrate species–the striped newt in north Florida.
We push on eastward into the Salt Plain. It heats up, but not as bad as it could be. Last nights rain has apparently done something to the salt. The plain appears not nearly as white today as it did on our first visit 2 years ago. We hypothesize that the rainwater sheet flows redissolve the salt briefly after rains. Sure enough as the day pushes on, we observe the white tint returning to the salt plain as rainwater evaporates and salt precipitates on the exposed ground.
We observe several old trash piles exposed on the salt plain while on route to the Oklahoma Remote Spot. The age of the trash ranges from the late nineteenth century to modern. This serves as a reminder of the tenacity of humans to settle in barely habitable environments. It also tells us that humans have been littering for decades. And centuries. Just what the hell do we have to do to get away from human reminders nowadays?
It takes us roughly 2.5 hours to reach the spot, with many embedded stops for observations. After 3.3 miles of hiking across the board flat Salt Plain, we reach the exact coordinates of the Oklahoma Remote Spot. The heat mounts and the wind picks up. But there’s work and contemplation to be done. Arrival at state Remote Spots always is a contemplative, reflective moment.
The Remote Spotters conduct our standard 15-minute Remote Spot Assessment. We have cell phone coverage. Human structures are visible in every cardinal direction…be it towers, roads with tiny moving cars, or even grain elevators. The oil industry also is detectable. Con trails lash the sky. And yet, right here, right now, we are the remotest family in all of Oklahoma, and it feels good. It feels right.
Ryan takes in the aroma of the Oklahoma Salt Plain. Even though we are 2.3 miles from the nearest road, we can still detect human civilization in every direction….even up in the sky with the occasional passing aircraft.
A conehead katydid species in the genus Neoconocephalus, is nearby apparently ingesting salt off the salt plain. This is the remotest katydid in all of Oklahoma.
Skyla collects a couple pinches of salt from the Great Salt Plain.
Remote spot documentation takes about an hour or so….then we make our way back at moderate pace back to our parked vehicle approximately 3.3 miles away on the edge of the refuge. The white salt returns to the ground as last nights rainwater evaporates. Our 6.6 mile out and back hike to the Oklahoma Remote Spot takes a single day at moderate pace for a family of three taking frequent stops for observation and documentation. Mission accomplished.
Now it’s up to Ryan to make sure he backs up our precious photos and videos….or we will have to beg Shane to let us back into the area for a third time.
journal draft in progress….more coming soon!