Forgotten Oklahoma History: The Wichita Mountains Gold Rush
I know it's hard to believe, but Oklahoma had its own gold rush back in the day.
Barring all of the rumors of buried gold and treasure persisting across the entire state--from the Northeast river country to the SWOK Wichita Mountains, Robber Cave, Aztec gold, etc... There are no shortages of tall tales about gold in the Sooner State, and there's a little truth to all of them.
Being a historical land of rivers, gold is easily found in almost every waterway here in Oklahoma, but whether or not someone will find the Aztec gold the conquistadors stashed away in Northern Oklahoma is still up in the clouds.
While Oklahoma was never known for gold, even though thousands passed through looking for it.
You see, there are no natural native lakes in Oklahoma. Zero. But there are a ton of rivers and waterways flowing on the plains, and those that came seeking gold in Southwest Oklahoma did so in what is now the refuge.
Odds are, if you've ever hiked around the Parallel Forest, you've come across the ruins of our mini-gold rush.
The circular rock pit everyone claims is some sort of satanic or witches altar is more likely a tool old-timers used to process rock in their search for gold... example, look what the horse is pulling in this photo from the Wichita Mountains Gold Rush.
There was at least one thing far more valuable than gold in the Wichita Mountains.
Beaver pelts were the currency long before America revolted in the name of liberty. If fact, when the French controlled what is modern-day Oklahoma, the plains were full of rivers and offered up a furry bounty to anyone willing to risk life and limb to get their share.
While that's also a great tale, it's one for another time.
The Oklahoma Gold Rush
In the 1890s, spurred by rumors of Spanish gold and mines lost to mother nature, the interest in gold turned to a full-blown rush by 1895. Thousands poured into what was the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation seeking their riches.
Federal authorities did their best to keep out gold miners, but when they opened the area up to settlement, the fix was in. There were nearly 2000 staked claims between 1901 and 1910 in the Wichitas.
Some claims were on the surface and along creeks, but others were shafted into the granite. Some prospectors gave up after a few feet, others bootstrapped themselves upwards of 200 feet deep into the mountains.
While things seemed promising at that point in time, many went bust in their search for gold, silver, and copper in those hills.