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Redbud Valley Route
Tulsa County

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Adapted from the 1986 edition of A Guide to Birding in Oklahoma published by the Tulsa Audubon Society. This account last updated in 2007.


Redbud Valley

Redbud Valley is now owned by the City of Tulsa and managed by Oxley Nature Center. Please visit the Redbud Valley web page on the Oxley site for additional information on the natural history of Redbud and descriptions of the trails.

The Redbud Valley Nature Preserve is a place of quiet beauty and rugged scenery. Here are plants and animals found nowhere else in northeastern Oklahoma. It is a very special habitat, preserved for all of us to enjoy. The trail will take you to some of the most interesting parts of the Preserve. Go slowly, open your senses, enjoy the wonders of this unique place.

Redbud Valley was originally purchased by The Nature Conservancy in the late 1960's. Dr. Harriet Barclay was a professor at the University of Tulsa (TU), and she spearheaded the effort to have it acquired, then worked with the Tulsa Tribune on a fund drive to raise the necessary money to repay The Nature Conservancy. TU maintained the property until the area was transferred to the City of Tulsa in 1990, and it is now managed as a part of Oxley Nature Center in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy. Under guidance from The Friends of Oxley Nature Center, the caretaker's house was renovated and the Barclay Visitor's Center created.  The primary management focus at Redbud Valley is to preserve and protect the unique plant and animal life that is found here. The area is also used for environmental education and for public enjoyment, but only when these activities coincide with our main focus, protection. 

To reach Redbud Valley exit from I 44E on 161 E. Ave; go north of the interstate to the service road. Follow left (west) approximately 0.2 mile to 161 E. Ave, and turn right. The road passes through the eastern edge of the Garnett Prairie which has long been known for beautiful prairie wildflowers. Typical are black-eyed susan, butterfly weed, several of the coneflowers, coreopsis, Indian blanket, and Indian paintbrush.

After crossing the railroad tracks, the road narrows and descends into the valley. The view is unique and colorful with limestone outcroppings and foliage appropriate to the season.

The area is open Wednesdays though Sundays from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. You may not hop the fence when the Nature Preserve is closed: on Mondays, Tuesdays, city holidays, before 8:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. The gates are locked promptly at 5:00 p.m., so plan your activities accordingly. The Harriet Barclay Visitor's Center is open from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Restrooms, picnic tables and drinking water are available in the shelter adjacent to the visitor's center from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. 

The habitat here was created where Bird Creek and its tributaries cut through a thick limestone layer. This has formed valleys edged with tall limestone cliffs. The limestone, in turn, has been dissolved by water to create several small caves and springs. Where the tall cliffs face north, they shade the area from sun and keep it cool and moist. This special combination allows plants like ferns, Columbine and Dutchman's Breeches to grow, and shelters native Oklahoma Sugar Maples. Many of the plants in this habitat are more common in the Ozark Mountains to the east.

On top of the limestone, however, the soil is thin and dries quickly, allowing plants like yucca and two species of cactus to flourish. There are also many plants here common on the prairies to the west. One tree of interest found here is the Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus. The combination of the dry and moist habitats, existing side by side, gives Redbud Valley its special character. 

A mile long walking tour of the Preserve takes one through varied habitat. From the bottomland along Bird Creek which nourishes enormous cottonwoods and sycamores as well as the rare Kentucky coffee tree; up to the limestone cliffs with overhangs, caves and fossils; and finally to the prairie grassland on the top of the bluffs, there are always aspects of nature to be explored. The Preserve is a haven not only for plants but for mammals, snakes, lizards, and many species of birds. In early spring the Louisiana Waterthrush is found along Bird Creek, to be followed by the Northern Waterthrush as it teeters over fallen logs and mosses, singing all the while. Investigate oaks for the tiny nest of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A dense shrub or small tree may conceal the nest of Blue Grosbeaks, his full-bodied "chink" heard from the thicket beyond. The moist woodland is attractive to the Acadian Flycatcher from mid-April to September. Pileated Woodpeckers are common through the year.

Each season of the year brings its own beauty. Smoke trees in bloom; ferns, columbine and Dutchman's breeches clinging to the honey-combed rock make spring a special time. Flowering prickly pear cactus and yucca dominate summer on the hilltop. While sugar maples and sumac show rich colors in fall, the red berries of deciduous holly and hawthorn give winter its stark beauty.

From the entrance to the Preserve, drive the winding road which heads generally east and south to a junction with SH 167 (3.5). The area is a mixture of open fields and meadows, of wooded hills with small creeks and ponds. Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadees, and Northern Cardinals are typical of species seen all year. Summer nesting birds include Painted and Indigo buntings, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Many species of warblers and both Ruby-crowned and Golden­crowned kinglets pass through in migration.

At the junction of the winding road and SH 167, turn left (north) to drive 2.7 miles to the junction with SH 266, also known as Port Road or 46 St. N. An old blacktop below, approximately 50 yards west of the highway, is quiet and often full of birds with many wildflowers along the one-mile lane. To enter this road drive north on SH 167 over Bird Creek and turn left. There are three alternatives for birding at this junction: 1) Turn right (east) to the Port of Catoosa. The main gate is open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days a week. If a guard is on duty, birders are usually permitted to enter. Short-eared Owls are often found in the prairie grasses at dusk in winter. If the rodent population has prospered, birds of prey may be found near grain storage bins on Channel Road. At the junction of Channel Road and Verdigris Parkway, turn right (east) to cross the channel where winter sparrows may be found near storage tanks.

2) Proceed north and west from SH 266 up a blacktop road to the top of the limestone bluff for a view of the port below. Fence rows along this road attract winter sparrows--Harris's, White-throated, White-crowned, Fox, Towhee, Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin which are abundant some winters. This Rogers County road turns left after 2 miles on 76 St. N, continuing west into Tulsa County and the north prairies.

3) Turn left (west) on SH 266. The high bluffs immediately to the right and extending 3.4 miles to Bird Creek are excellent for hawks during fall migration. Rough-legged Hawks usually begin coming into the Tulsa area by November 1. Both Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles have been seen flying over this ridge. Continuing west, birders have fre­quently found Great Horned Owls at dusk. Extensive rock quarries in this area may provide nest sites for American Kestrel and Common Barn­Owl (See Rock Quarries). This road becomes 36 St. N west of Mingo and continues west to the main entrance to Mohawk Park.
 

 

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Last modified: September 21, 2009

 

 

 

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