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When people think about places to see bison, or buffalo as I called them growing up, they often think about Yellowstone or maybe South Dakota. If you live in the Midwest, you probably know that bison can be found in various locations that don’t require a huge road trip to access them. Don’t get me wrong; you should definitely see Yellowstone or the Black Hills. But sometimes it’s cool to take a day trip to experience these animals. Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Oklahoma, is one such place. 

Woolaroc Barltesville, Oklahoma

Why is this place called Woolaroc? In 1925, Phillips Petroleum founder Frank Phillips established a ranch in the Osage Hills of Oklahoma. He named the place Woolaroc for the area’s best features–woods, lakes, and rocks. Woolaroc. 

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Located just outside of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the ranch served as a country home for the Phillips family during Frank’s lifetime. They often hosted parties with diverse attendees. In fact, you can still attend the fundraising event Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion in September every year. After years of collecting art, animal trophies, and firearms, Phillips donated his collection to the Frank Phillips Foundation. It was Phliips’s dream that others could learn and experience respect for western and American Indian art while providing a wildlife preserve for bison, deer, and other animals. The Phillips Foundation operates Woolaroc today; Frank and Jane Phillips are buried in a mausoleum on site.

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

The Mountain Man Camp

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

One of the first areas you’ll encounter as you enter the property it the turn-off for the mountain man camp. This is a fun little stop where living history interpreters will show you what life would be like for a fur trapper and hunter before the United States was settled.

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

During our visit, the mountain men were also melting silver to make bullets. They were also happy to demonstrate firing a musket.

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

After the shot is loaded…Fire!

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

You may find some horses and bison near this area, as well. If you don’t see the bison, don’t worry. You’ll probably see many as you travel up the trail.

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

The Wildlife Preserve

Woolaroc Bartlesville, Oklahoma

If you’re looking to see bison, you’ve come to the right place.

Bison at Woolaroc

And just like anywhere else, if you encounter wildlife, stay in the safety of your car. Honestly, some of them will probably walk right along the road.

Bison at Woolaroc

It’s always fun to spot the babies!

Bison at Woolaroc

We also saw some deer as we drove on the trail.

Deer at Woolaroc

We loved the fun touches along the way.

Woolaroc

You’ll also learn more about Woolaroc as you experience the wildlife preserve.

Woolaroc

As you get closer to the museum area, you can also see a section that is home to bighorn sheep.

Woolaroc

Playground, Concessions, and Picnic Area

As you approach the museum parking lot, you’ll see an area where kids can run around.

Woolaroc

While you’re here, you may want to sample some bison barbecue. We’d just had lunch, otherwise, we might have tried some. They also had lemonade and ice cream bars. Yum!

Woolaroc

There are picnic tables and a shelter house if you want to bring your lunch or sample the concessions.

Woolaroc

Nearby, you can see some miniature horses and other animals at the animal barn and animal pens.

Woolaroc barn

The Grounds of the Museum

Experiencing Woolaroc’s art definitely begins outside of the museum gallery building. If you want a birdseye view of the property, you can check out the observation deck. We didn’t on this visit because…well, it was July. We were ready for a cooler environment!

Woolaroc

Don’t miss the stained glass mural on the conference building. 

Woolaroc

This statue is near the mural.

Woolaroc

And here is a shot of the museum building from near this vantage point.

Woolaroc Museum

Outside of the museum building, you’ll find several statues representing Oklahomans of various backgrounds.

Woolaroc statue

Here is another.

Woolaroc statue

The art and flowers around the museum grounds inspire quiet contemplation.

Woolaroc flowers

The Woolaroc Museum

Woolaroc museum

After walking around the grounds, we were ready to cool off and explore the museum gallery. What began as an airplane hangar has now become an educational museum.

The Rotunda

Woolaroc museum

When you first open those large doors and step inside, you’ll find yourself in the rotunda with a statue of Frank Phillips. He shares the space with an American Indian and a cowboy.

Woolaroc museum

The Dawn of History

The next rooms of the museum take you on a journey of Oklahoma’s history beginning with the end of the last ice age. This room features artifacts from the period and some “stuffed” animals.

Woolaroc

The Land of Forgotten Cities

This room is dedicated to the Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo tribes. 

Woolaroc

As you can see, you can stand in the center of this room and look ahead into the following rooms.

Woolaroc museum

Indian Territory

Here is a closer look at the Indian Territory room from the inside.

Woolaroc museum

This room focuses on European culture’s influence on the Plains Indians.

Woolaroc

Here are some Kachina dolls from the Pueblo Indians.

Woolaroc museum

The artwork in this room is stunning.

Woolaroc museum

The Trail of the Cowboy

This room is dedicated to cowboys and their lives herding cattle on the trail. Cowboys from Texas drove longhorn cattle through Indian Territory on their way to Kansas.

Woolaroc museum

Spurs, anyone?

Woolaroc

A Cavalcade of History

In this room, you’ll see how the lives of the settlers in Oklahoma intertwined with the American Indians.

The Grandeur of the West

There’s some fabulous art in this room, but my companions were in love with touching the animal furs. Go figure.

Woolaroc

The Woolaroc Airplane

Woolaroc museum

You can access this room from the ground floor and from an observation deck on the upper floor. The Woolaroc plane won the Pacific Air Race in 1927. You could say that housing this plane started the museum here since the building has expanded from the hangar.

The Oil Patch

Woolaroc

You couldn’t talk about the history of Oklahoma without discussing oil and its effect on the economy and the lives of the people who lived here. Here is a replica of a house for lease to oil workers and their families.

Woolaroc museum

Colt Firearms Collection

In this room, you’ll get to see the Phillips Colt Firearms Collection and some “stuffed” animals, including this bear.

Woolaroc museum

This room is also home to some trophies and artifacts from around the world, including a shrunken head collection. I have a picture, and I debated adding it here, but in the end, I decided maybe it’s roo morbid for a family travel blog. If you disagree, you can tell me in the comments. Yes, I’m hoping someone out there says, “show us the shrunken heads!”

Frank Phillips and Woolaroc

In this room, you’ll learn the story of Frank Phillips himself.

Woolaroc museum

You can even knock on his office door.

Woolaroc

Memory Lane Station

This room holds a model train, toys, and a mineral collection. Train lovers will enjoy this!

The Lodge at Woolaroc

After you’ve finished taking in the sights at the museum, you can visit the ranch house where the Phillips family stayed, entertained overnight guests, and hosted their parties. Now, it’s also a showcase of artifacts and animal trophies from around the world.

Woolaroc museum

The porch of the Lodge overlooks a garden and Clyde Lake. The Lodge is built on a cliff so that you can enjoy the panoramic view of Woolaroc.

Woolaroc museum

It’s interesting to note that you can rent the Lodge, the picnic area near the lake below, or the Event Center that has been built near the lodge. Apparently, weddings and wedding receptions are often hosted here.

Woolaroc museum

When you go inside the Lodge, you’ll be able to tour the first floor.

Lodge at Woolaroc

Here’s a closer look at the piano.

Lodge at Woolaroc

Also on the first floor, you can see the dining room. This would be a fun place for an event!

Lodge at Woolaroc

After you explore the Lodge, you’ll drive out of the property through the wildlife preserve again. You’ll also pass the mausoleum where Frank and Jane are buried. There are some hiking trails on the property, but we didn’t take the time to explore those. Since this was a day trip for us, we headed for home.

Woolaroc is a great place to bring your family to explore. You’ll get to see wildlife and learn a little about American Indian and Oklahoma history along the way. It was also a nostalgic trip for me; I’d visited as a child. For grades K through 5, I lived in Oklahoma, so my elementary school years focused on the history that’s shared at Woolaroc. I can’t imagine that anyone would not have a great time exploring this place!

Woolaroc
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Background source:

“Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve.” Woolaroc.org, Frank Phillips Foundation, 2004, www.woolaroc.org/.

Other relatively nearby destinations:
 
 

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