(NEXSTAR) – When you think of the heart of Oklahoma, it’s natural to think of Oklahoma City. The state’s capitol looks like it’s smack dab in the middle of the Sooner State. It’s also the political center of the state and is a crossroads of the major interstates that traverse Oklahoma.
But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahoma’s population center lies elsewhere.
Since the first census in 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has been calculating the “center of population” in the country. This is a point where an imaginary, flat, weightless, and rigid map of the U.S. would balance perfectly if everyone were of identical weight. It is the average location of where people in the U.S. live, according to the Census Bureau.
Data from the 2020 census found Hartville, Missouri, is the “heart” of America. Since 1980, Missouri towns have been the population centers but the first-ever center in 1790 was in Maryland, just east of Baltimore.
In addition to calculating the center of population for the U.S., the Census Bureau is also able to calculate the “heart” of each state, including Oklahoma.
Based on the latest census, Oklahoma’s center of population is located at 35°36’25″N, 96°51’15″W. That lands in what appears to be a field just west of Sparks.
Sparks is a tiny town in Lincoln County. According to the 2020 Census, its population was just 122.
It would take just under an hour to drive to the state’s remote “center” from downtown Oklahoma City.
You can see the “heart” of Oklahoma on the interactive map below:
The first center of population in Oklahoma was reported in 1890 at 35° 18′ 58″ N, 96° 28′ 01″ W, which is east of Oklahoma City near Cromwell. But as the decades went on, the Tulsa area grew in population and drew the state’s population center northward.
In 1930, the population center was between Harrah and Meeker. By 1970, it moved closer to Rossville.
With the 1990 Census, the center moved closer to Sparks, and has stayed in the vicinity since.