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Stop 2: Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area

Directions: Take Historic Route 66 East towards Erick to OK 30 South. Go 9.2 miles and follow the signage into the WMA. Watch for Golden Eagles!

This 19,100-acre preserve is one of the stunning gems of Western Oklahoma. From the flat and uniform views along Interstate 40, the vistas of this preserve ambush your senses with disbelief at the sudden grandeur. Roads throughout the preserve are unpaved, but well-graded and generally easy driving for passenger vehicles as long as the roads are dry. Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Cassin's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Mourning Dove, and a host of raptors that include Mississippi Kite, Northern Harrier, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Golden Eagle an all be found on the refuge. Northern Bobwhite occurs here as well, and will occasionally pose atop rocks or fenceposts for the patient photographer. Western and Eastern meadowlarks, American Kestrel, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Phoebe, Turkey Vulture, Great Blue Heron can all be reliably seen on the preserve. A prairie dog town is located at the southern end. White-tailed deer are common, black-tailed jackrabbits scurry through the brush, coyotes call at night, and raccoons hunt along pond edges after dark. Prairie boomer lizards can be seen sunning themselves on rocks during hot summer afternoons.

Patches of little bluestem are interspersed with sideoats-grama, mesquite, juniper, willow, and dotted gayfeather, yucca, and a fascinating assemblage of other prairie vegetation. During wet years, spring at Sandy Sanders is a festival of colorful prairie wildflowers.

Take time to get out of your vehicle and walk down into the draws. Willow-lined creekbanks can harbor a variety of birds, and butterflies such as Common Wood-Nymph, Red Admiral, Viceroy, Gray Hairstreak, Checkered White, Southern Dogface, Question Mark, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, American Lady, Dainty Sulphur, and migrating Monarchs can all be found here. Stop at roadside windmills and stock tanks to look for dragonflies and other wildlife that are attracted to the water.

Also known as "the Breaks," Sandy Sanders offers unparalleled opportunities for scenic drives and photography. Daybreak affords spectacular views of the red shale formations, and the colors change dramatically every few seconds as the sun breaks the horizon and moves higher into the sky. Sunset provides yet a different panoply of images, and the deep blue of the prairie sky is well worth capturing digitally or on film, particularly when mixed with the scudding white of clouds. Photo opportunities abound for those interested in scenic prairie windmill views. Some of the windmills on the WMA are wooden, and waiting for the optimal light of sunrise or sunset can create unforgettable images.

Take care when walking on the preserve. Snakebites are virtually unheard of, but rattlesnakes are common denizens of the refuge. They will almost always flee rather than fight, so don't be too alarmed if you come across one in your meanderings. Stop by the refuge office to get a copy of the WMA roadmap. Driving from one end of the preserve to the other can take several hours, so take time to plot your trip with the ranger before striking out.

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