Dianne here -- This week on our "tourist day," Roger and I drove south about 30 miles to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to visit the Woolaroc Museum and Lodge.
Roger here.... We made an excellent choice for a visit. Our friends from Indiana, Jay and Nancy, told us that if we were near Bartlesville, that we should visit Woolaroc. We discovered that it was only thirty miles away, so off we went. It was perfect weather for a visit - full sun and mid seventies!
A little background... Frank Phillips was the founder of Phillips Petroleum (Phillips 66). The self-made millionaire brought prosperity to Bartlesville and the surrounding area. He built a mansion for his family in Bartlesville, but spent half of every year hobnobbing with other millionaires in New York City. He intended to build a place in Connecticut to entertain his East Coast friends, but decided, instead, to build a ranch outside of Bartlesville for that purpose. What a great decision! The countryside here is beautiful - rolling hills, lakes, streams, rock outcroppings, and grasslands with interspersed forests. The name itself, Woolaroc, is a combination of the three main features: woods, lakes, rocks.
The first structure to be built was the lodge. The two-story log structure has a lot of character. It overlooks rock croppings that descend to a scenic lake and Indian tepees. You can imagine the guests (including two former presidents - Truman and Hoover) watching the sunsets in a unique second-story screen room. The inside rooms are decorated by scores of animal trophies. Frank must have given the local taxidermists a comfortable living. Dianne took a moment to literally smell
the roses that thrive outside the lodge.
Dianne again: Will Rogers was also a good friend of Frank Phillips and spent a lot of time here. Frank Phillips loved his Oklahoma lodge so much that he and his wife are buried in a family mausoleum on the grounds.
honors the Indians and Cowboys that inhabited the area during the colorful years before modern times. It is surrounded by countless life-sized bronze sculptures.
The first room to be built housed the airplane
(Woolaroc) that won a contest crossing the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. It has expanded to many galleries full of art and artifacts. The architecture and lighting in the museum are as impressive as any museum I have visited.
Dianne here: Remember that any of the photos on the blog can be made larger for viewing if you click on them. (I especially recommend this for the painting and sculpture photos!) There was no flash photography allowed, so I was at the mercy of the ambient lighting, but it was good enough.
The artifacts included relics from an Aztec-like culture that inhabited the Oklahoma area, shrunken heads (Dianne's favorite) from Ecuador, and countless Indian and cowboy items that Dianne and I took the time to leisurely examine. Dianne took a picture of a collection of cowboy spurs.
She was too embarrassed to take a picture of the shrunken heads, as a sweet, elderly docent lady was stationed nearby. Dianne was afraid that the docent might think that she had macabre interests. Only her husband and closest friends know that she actually does.
I am not an art fanatic. I enjoy some of it, but it is not something that I would go out of the way to visit. I must say, however, that the sculptures and paintings in this museum were fascinating. Many were of well-known Americans (explorers, presidents, pioneers, and Indians). Many were so well done that they looked more like photographs than paintings. There were several Frederick Remingtons, an artist I have actually heard of. Our favorite bronze sculpture was of four cowboys headed to town after payday.
By a long shot, our favorite painting was a gigantic rendering entitled Navajo Fire Dance. Our photo of this painting that covers an entire wall does not do it justice.
The two-mile drive from the entrance of the property to the lodge and museum was, by itself, worth the $8 admission. Frank Phillips assembled a collection of animals that roam freely throughout the property. Visitors are not allowed out of their cars during the drive as the animals are mostly not in enclosures. The abundant animals were EVERYWHERE. Dianne and I saw
Texas longhorns, Elk with full antlers,
a variety of smaller deer, emus, ostriches, and bison (buffalo) among many others. At one point we watched a small European Fallow Deer walk in front of our car to greet one of its kind that was behind a fence.
(Unfortunately, we did not get a shot of them rubbing noses through the fence.) A little further down the road, we stopped the car to allow a bison to finish crossing the bridge that we would soon cross.
The big fella hung around our car for several minutes while we took multiple pictures.
If this was not enough, there are hiking trails on the grounds. Since it was such a nice day, and we love to hike, we sought them out. They were on the far side of the children's petting zoo. After entering the area, there were several options. There was not a map, but everything appeared to be well-marked (or so we thought). We opted for the one-mile warriors' circle and traveled over rocky stream beds, rock bridges and through a wooded area where the trail DISAPPEARED.
I hate when that happens. The problem was that the falling leaves covered the trail. After a few minutes we found an orange ribbon that marked the trail ahead and were back on our way.
Woolaroc was an unexpected surprise. We thought it would be interesting. We did not know how well-done it actually turned out to be. This is one of those attractions that would be worth driving well out of the way to visit. Oh, and if you do, plan to spend an entire day.
It was late afternoon when we traveled back through the animal sanctuary to head back to Coffeyville. Since we had not eaten since breakfast, we decided to stop in Bartlesville to eat. We chose the Outlaw Chop House. The name of the restaurant reflects the numerous outlaws that inhabited this wild area decades ago. We always try to sample regional food when we are in a particular part of the country. What better place to have a steak than Oklahoma. I had the Dalton Gang Sirloin. Dianne had chicken-fried steak. Yummy. What a great day!