Fork National Wildlife Refuge was established 1993 to protect and
enhance the bottomland hardwood forest of the Deep Fork River floodplain
and their associated fish and wildlife resources. The refuge is located
5 miles South of Okmulgee, OK on Cedar Road. Call 918-756-0815 for more
Refuge is located largely in the floodplain of the Deep Fork of the
North Canadian River, commonly known as the Deep Fork River. The river
that is nearly as deep as it is wide meanders across 34 river miles of
the Refuge. Historically, the bottomland hardwood forest community of
the Deep Fork River was a complex, diverse, and interrelated association
of plants and animals, created and maintained by periodic, natural
flooding. However, years of development and habitat alteration by humans
have significantly modified the dynamic and pristine floodplain
ecosystem. Today, Refuge lands are a mixture of regenerating bottomland
forests, drained and natural wetlands, agricultural lands, and some
upland hardwood forest prairie.
the vast bottomland hardwood ecosystem of eastern Oklahoma encompassed
an estimated 2.2 million acres. By the early 1980s, roughly 85 percent
of these floodplain forests had been cleared, leaving approximately
328,700 acres, much of which is in small, isolated tracts that are of
little value to wildlife. The Deep Fork River floodplain forest is part
of a historically extensive system of bottomland hardwood forests
supported by the rivers and streams that drain the Mississippi River
watershed. The area of ecological concern is the entire bottomland
hardwood forest ecosystem of the Mississippi River and its tributaries,
and includes all of the bottomland hardwood forest habitats in eastern
inundation results in a bottomland hardwood community in various stages
of succession. Flooding is essential to the maintenance of many plant
species native to bottomland forests. Temporarily flooded bottomland
hardwood forests with oxbows, sloughs, marshes characterize the Deep
Fork River floodplain, and small drainages scattered throughout. It
contains some relatively mature stands of mixed oak and pecan, but much
of the timber has been harvested and the area now supports regenerated,
variable-age stands of oak, pecan, elm, hickory, river birch, willow and
other hardwood tree species with understory shrubs, vines, forbs, and
grasses. Most of the hardwoods are less than 50 years old.
Forested wetlands cover approximately
85 percent of the Refuge. Shrubby wetlands, emergent wetlands (cattails,
sedges and other aquatics), open water, forested uplands, and abandoned
and currently active agricultural fields make up the remaining 15
percent. The Deep Fork River floodplain is rich in biological diversity
and of value to a variety of migrating and wintering waterfowl,
especially mallards. It is an important breeding and wintering area for
wood ducks. A wide variety of resident and migratory songbirds also are
supported by the bottomland hardwood habitat along the Deep Fork River.
Many game species such as white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, and
cottontail and swamp rabbits inhabit the area. Furbearer populations,
particularly those of raccoon, coyote, and beaver are among the highest
in the State.
Cussetah Bottoms Boardwalk trail hosts
several interpretive panels which allow visitors to improve their
knowledge of the bottomland hardwood forest and the wildlife which
relies upon the forest for food, shelter, and nesting space. This area
is open to the public from dawn to dusk.
A significant portion of the Refuge is
open to the public for hiking, wildlife viewing, and wildlife
photography. Most of the Refuge is accessible from State highways or
County roads. You can park in one of the many Refuge parking lots to
access the area of your choice. Some areas of the Refuge are closed to
the public (see map). Access roads, parking lots, trails, and other
points of interest are designated on the map. Below is a description of
the ways that you can view the Refuge.
By car: The Refuge has many miles of
County roads that run through the Refuge. Visitors can slowly drive
these roads and try to catch a glimpse of wildlife.
By foot: If getting out and walking is
your preference, the Refuge has many areas for your enjoyment. The
Cussetah Bottoms elevated boardwalk is a great place to view wildlife in
a bottomland hardwood forest.
The Coalton Bottoms trail once was a
railroad used to haul coal out of the area. Today, this old railroad has
been converted to a ½-mile trail that will take you along a beautiful
wooded ridge and near the Deep Fork River. The Refuge has other trails
that are routinely mowed. These mowed trails lead from the Refuge
parking lots out into the Refuge.