Oklahoma’s impressive and surreal Great Salt Plains

Driving across the salt plains to the designated selenite crystal dig area

Most everyone has heard of the Great Salt Lake and the accompanying Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Meanwhile, the Sooner State of Oklahoma has its own impressive salty ecosystem named the Great Salt Plains located in the north-central part of the state, northwest of Enid.

Source: inaturalist.org

The Great Salt Plains includes a state park on the east side of Great Salt Plains Lake which covers 8,960 acres of water surface area. According to the state travel website, the Great Salt Plains Lake is approximately half as salty as the ocean. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma website describes the geological history of this area as such:

“This geological phenomenon, which gained its name from the thin layer of salt that covers the entire area, has attracted geologists and sightseers for years. Scientists believe that salt was deposited during repeated water level rises of a shallow sea millions of years ago. The supply of salt is kept intact by saline groundwater that flows just a few feet below the surface. When the water evaporates, a layer of salt remains on the surface. This process also plays a role in the formation of selenite crystals, which visitors covet.”

Source: ok history.org
Source: maps.google.com

Buffering the lake on the north, west, and south is the Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, which occupies over 32,000 acres and is home to the mystical Great Salt Plains themselves. This surreal environment covers 13,500 acres of the refuge — the only place on the planet where visitors are allowed to dig for selenite crystals in designated areas.

Designated dig area for selenite crystals

We thoroughly enjoyed our 90 minutes of digging last Friday evening and unearthed dozens of gorgeous selenite crystals (see photos below) beneath a vast canopy of blue skies dotted with clouds. The unique identifying feature of these crystals (formed from gypsum) is their hour-glass shaped interior.

Some of the selenite crystals we found
Hallmark hour-glass shaped interior within Oklahoma selenite crystals

Don’t let the salty nature of this unique environment fool you. The Great Slat Plains/Lake is a wonderful haven for wildlife, as more than 315 bird species have been identified here.

Interested observer while we dug for selenite crystals

Oklahoma is home to a wide-range of fascinating ecosystems and is full of scenic surprises, including sand dunes, mountains, prairies, grasslands, caves, mesas, badlands, and these salt flats. One only need to explore the Sooner State. Enjoy!

Distant storms on the horizon


This entry was posted in Animals, archaeology, art, climate, culture, deserts, ecosystems, entertainment, environment, fun, geography, Geology, history, lakes, Maps, natural history, nature, North America, pictures, recreation, rivers/watersheds, Science, States, topography, tourism, Travel, water and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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