Tulsa’s Emerald Gem: The Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- From glaring sunlight to cool shade, cars to woods, city to forest in seconds.

"For a lot of people, this is their church," says Ryan Howell. "It's where they come to connect with wilderness."

That's what trail runners, hikers, and mountain bikers get as they enter the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness.

"Beautiful trees," he continues. "I love it out here."

That's also what park coördinator Ryan Howell and other staffers with Tulsa's River Parks Authority discovered too when they took a small piece of little used city property, leased some adjacent land, and bought more to make this parcel bigger.

Howell says, "Now, it's become kind of an island as development encloses it."

There are 400 acres of forest and open land here now, crisscrossed with 20 miles of marked trails and many more unmarked.

Howell says people get lost in here at first which is half the fun.

"It's a spider web," he says, "and until you've been out here 4 or 5 times you will get lost, but the good news is the park is only about a mile long north to south."

In the 1920's and 1930's this was an active oil field.

Old concrete rig foundations still poke out of the brush.

Howell points to a spot on the trail.

"This broken glass is actually considered part of an archeological site," he says. "It's all from the 20's and 30's when that pump jack was operating."

Mountain bikes and trail runners blazed paths here long before it was an actual park.

In the past 5 years Ryan says it's become as popular as any park in the city.

"On a typical weekend we'll see 3 to 5 thousand visitors a day. That is comparable to what the Tulsa Zoo sees."

Turkey Mountain only rises about 800 feet above the Arkansas River, but people are already printing T-shirts that brag about reaching the summit.

"Yeah," laughs Howell. "You see these 'I Climbed Turkey Mt. 806 ft' shirts."

The view from up here lets people know just how close they are to downtown Tulsa, a short walk or ride, but still a world away.

June 3 is National Trails Day across the U.S.

The Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness area has some events planned for the weekend of June 2nd and 3rd.

For more information go to http://www.turkeymt.com