Oklahoma City's wild side can be found at the Stinchcomb refuge
The wild side of Oklahoma City can be found in a wooded area just north of Lake Overholser.
The 1,000-acre Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, along Bluff Creek Canal and the north side of the lake, draws hikers, dog-walkers, and nature-lovers to the wooded area near NW 50 and Council Road.
The coffee-colored waters are swift along trails and small foot paths that go to the banks of the water. Cedar trees, post oaks and others are thick. Cattails and reeds grow at the edge of the water.
At a road for foot traffic only, the footprints in the mud on a recent day were from a small critter, a raccoon, and from a larger animal, a deer.
Bird-watchers report hundreds of species. Grace Huffman, an Oklahoma City Audubon Society member and photographer, said a group on May 4 counted 58 species of birds at the refuge.
In recent years, housing additions and development have surrounded the refuge in Oklahoma City and Bethany. A granite marker at a path near NW 50, on the east side of the refuge, reads: "Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge Monument. Dedicated to Lee and Sarah Stinchcomb, '89ers, by their children."
A marker near the trail has the letters, "OCWD," for Oklahoma City Water Department.
The park is maintained by the Northwest Oklahoma City Rotary Club through the Oklahoma City Beautiful "Adopt-A-Park," program that targets litter.
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Stephen Kovash, who kayaks at Stinchcomb, said the natural growth of trees and other plants that line the shore provide a secluded sanctuary for birds and wildlife.
"On a good day you can see so many magnificent species of birds including kingfishers, cranes and many species of heron, including the great blue heron. Basically it's convenient, beautiful and peaceful," Kovash said.
After two days of rain on a recent Sunday, the waters in the Hefner Canal that flows from Lake Hefner to Overholser and spills into the refuge, were high and swift, and a coffee-with-cream color.
Behind the Hefner Canal building, where water is released from the lake, a group of young men used a net to seine for bait fish. One man pulled up a large crappie.
An off-trail field of purple flowers leads to the edge of the canal where waist-high green vines end and the water starts. Cattails grow along the edges of the canal and duck blinds have long attracted waterfowl hunters during the winter seasons. Hunting is allowed at only two Oklahoma City locations, Lake Stanley Draper and Stinchcomb.
A large white egret flew above the water and stopped on the bank. Bicyclists used a trail on the east side of the canal, and a few kayakers braved the high water to venture in and enjoy the sunshine. Bees pollinated milkweed growing along the canal north of the State Highway 66 iron bridge and the modern bridge where traffic buzzed louder than the bees.
The refuge is maintained by the Oklahoma City Water Trust, a city parks spokesman said.