Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR) turned out to be the first place to visit on my quest to explore public lands within Oklahoma; and that was based entirely on it being bald eagle nesting season. I'm the first to admit that my photo interests are in capturing landscapes, and not critters. Landscapes are easy- they don't fly away from you, and you don't need to stalk them. You can walk loudly and goof off as you set up your shot, and then just move on with your life. Not the case with wildlife, which is why I'm sorta terrible at it. I knew from the outset that I was going to be handicapping myself and my photography chances since I'm incapable of walking across any surface softly.
But as I said, bald eagle nesting season was upon me, and those majestic birds were supposed to be much more visible and active, provided I could sneak up close to a nesting tree and use my modest zoom lens to get a closer look. The odds were allegedly in my favor, despite my stomping walk. SNWR is located at the confluence of the Canadian and Arkansas rivers in east-central Oklahoma, and is in prime waterfowl and bald eagle territory.
20,800 acres of spongy wetlands, bottom-land hardwoods, and briar patches comprise the refuge which was put in place to provide habitat to local and migratory animals. While driving up to SNWR and the confluence it also seemed to be prime real estate to let your lawns go feral with small children, trash, and cars that someone has full intention of getting running again one day. Just after they pull the tree out of the engine block.
Overall, this refuge is here for the animals, I hope. The acreage doesn't feel very inviting to any non-boating, non-fishing pole wielding visitors; where "Road Closed" signs dot the main track; inexplicably shutting down every enticing potential drive or hike.
I hope those signs are there to protect nesting wildlife and to keep ATV traffic quelled in what would surely be mud-boggin' heaven. But who knows why, because I showed up mid-day on a Saturday to a closed volunteer run Visitor Center that is open during business hours Monday- Thursday. Because that makes sense. The large open fields leading up to the rivers were punctuated by large oak trees, which would be perfect for night photography landscapes, but the refuge is for day use only. There was a rising sense of exclusion the further we got into the refuge- maybe this land wasn't necessarily our land.
We drove the two main roads, observing fields that had been torn up with what looked like knee high bulldozers- invasive wild boars that had eaten everything in their path. The boars were doing more damage to those Road Closed tracks than any vehicle would, and looked to be enjoying it. More manageable field damage was being done by the "alive" variety of armadillos, which I had never seen before.
Bald eagles were soaring overhead and nesting in far off trees, and taking down ducks for lunch in the rushes, well out of reach of the main road and my camera. All in all... lots of animals living out their lives in the refuge, which is exactly what it was set up to do. It can be hard to appreciate limited use land, especially when those uses are not for your primary enjoyment.
My day wrapped up with hardly a parting glance to Sequoyah and the stout fisherman that lined a small muddy inlet. The refuge was being used, and that's the whole point. Just because this land didn't cater to my specific demographic or interests doesn't matter, because it was catering to the original demographic; the plants, animals, trees, and rivers. And that's far more important than being able to mud bog down a dirt track.