U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Black Kettle National Grassland

Oklahoma and Texas

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Grassland Information

The Black Kettle National Grassland (NG), 31,000 acres, is located in western Oklahoma with a small portion on the eastern panhandle side of Texas. It is administered by the Cibola National Forest. There are four campgrounds three of which meet the selection criteria.

The Black Kettle National Grassland provides a variety of recreational opportunities for western Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas. Camping, boating, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, photography, just to name of few, are some of the opportunities awaiting visitors to this national grassland. The land also has a rich Native American, westward expansion, and Great Depression history.

It is challenging to imagine the Black Kettle NG as anything other then what it is today but it wasn't always as you see. The area now designated "grassland" was settled in the 1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts," which opened the land to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s caused some homesteads on this sub-marginal farmland (a location receiving 15 or less inches of annual moisture) to literally dry up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status. The Work Program Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees helped to stabilize the eroding soil by planting trees and sowing native grasses. They also built several of the lakes on the Black Kettle NG. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the USDA Forest Service and they were tasked with management of these sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service established some twenty National Grasslands from those lands. "The designation of an area as National Grassland is not a description of the area as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area to multiple uses and benefits."

At the Black Kettle Recreation Area, just north of Cheyenne, OK, visitors can hike, fish, boat, picnic, or just relax. Visitors have two choices for camping areas. One option is along the shoreline of the Dead Warrior, a.k.a. Dead Indian, Reservoir where campsites are in full sun and offer immediate access to the lake. The other option offers lots of shade in camp sites below the dam among mature Black walnut. For campers looking for electric and water hookups and not interested in camping on water, there is Old Military Road campground in the Lake Marvin Recreation Area near Canadian, TX. Skipout campground, back in Oklahoma, is near the little community of Reydon. It is small and could accommodate a couple of recreational vehicles but is more for tent campers and offers a boat ramp, fishing, and some hiking.

Undeveloped sections of the NG are open for exploration by foot or horse. Here, nature watching and photography opportunities are plentiful and diverse. The grassland is home to deer, turkey, beavers, bald eagles, and Monarch butterflies. Parts of it is open for hunting and is popular with Bobwhite quail, Rio Grande turkey, and deer hunters (contact the Black Kettle NG for details). The grassland is also host to two commercial endeavors, gas and oil drilling and cattle ranching. Special permits or leases are issued for this commercial use of the land.

Northwest of Cheyenne, OK are the Antelope Hills. The significance of these hills is they were once called Boundary Mountains and marked the 100th Meridian. They initially separated the United States and Spain, and later Mexico, until 1845 when the area became part of the "Indian Territory" and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation. In 1892, the area was opened to settlement by whites in a "Land Run." Literally, this meant settlers ran either on foot, horseback, or wagon to claim160-acre tracts of designated land.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho people considered the area today called Black Kettle National Grassland as part of their homeland. Chief Black Kettle, of the Southern Cheyenne, was killed during a sunrise attack on his village by the troopers of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th U.S. Cavalry, just south of the Antelope Hills and is the source of the name for this national grassland. A day trip to the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site provides insight to both the battle, the Cheyenne People's homeland, and a way of life for Native People.

The area where the Black Kettle NG is located has long been thought of as remote and it still is. There are no interstate highways nearby, no outstanding natural wonders within miles and miles and no large population centers within 150 miles. What Black Kettle NG does have is a wonderful variety of recreational opportunities, some special populations of wildlife, and lots of quiet space - all waiting to be discovered.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 2113 Osuna Road, NE Suite A Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113 505-346-3900 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESS Black Kettle 18555 Hwy 47A Suite B Cheyenne, Oklahoma 73628 580-497-2143

Fred and Suzi Dow