National Geographic : 1957 May
COLORADO NEW MEXICO I 666 camera finders at this busy wildlife commu nity. Then I looked up, struck by the sudden silence. Except for some ducks rafted to gether on the lake and a few more sunning on the banks, wildlife had vanished. The young elk had rejoined its mother back in the trees. Deer traffic on the trail stopped. Even the noisy woodpeckers and kingfishers ceased their chatter. The midday rest had come to the land. Comanche Lake is a man-made reservoir, backed up by a dam across Deer Creek as it flows south toward the Red River. Though it quickly became my favorite spot for animal photography, it is only one of 22 artificial lakes on the refuge that check erosion and tide the game population over during long dry spells. Army Guns Rumble on Refuge One such drought had just ended in a series of cloudbursts when I set out on my first full-length tour of the Wichita refuge. My guide was Ernest J. Greenwalt, Wichita's manager for 20 years until his recent transfer to the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As we drove to the south gate under murky skies, I heard a deep booming from the crags. "Artillery," Greenwalt said. He explained I I I KAN SAS I MO. S.Red Rock - WICHITA MTS., site of 'Tulsa Wildlife Rfuge OklahomaCity OK LAHOMA -- p*Anadarko - Lawton TEXAS RdRi 0 100 200 STATUTE MILES that huge guns from the Army's near-by Fort Sill fire from the south side of the refuge at targets on the military reservation. In exchange for this privilege, the Army helps keep up the refuge roads. This arrangement has worked well for a number of years. But at the time of my visit, the Army was pressing for outright con trol of 10,700 acres in the refuge as a buffer zone for firing even longer-range weapons. On February 28, 1957, the Department of the Interior announced an agreement giving the Army a ten-year permit to use about one third of that area for training and for firing into impact areas outside the refuge borders. Boulder Camp, beside West Cache Creek, and Treasure Lake, under the sheer ramparts of Elk Mountain, both remain open to the public as favorite camping and picnicking sites. Wildlife protection continues. Driving now through a low range of hills, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Binds Nature's Wounds Here Federal agencies have taken overgrazed pasture lands and brought them back to life. Prairie grasses sustain antelope, deer, buffalo, and longhorns, making the refuge a living museum. Scissor-tailed flycatcher at lower left is Oklahoma's State bird. WICHITAMT.