Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1993 to protect the rapidly disappearing bottomland hardwood forests of eastern Oklahoma. This 10,000 acre refuge, which is still acquiring land to meet its approximately 18,300 acre boundary, offers a crucial resource for waterfowl migrating along the Central Flyway in the spring and fall. Floods replenish the lush bottomland hardwood forest each year, which consist of trees such as the bur oak, pin oak, black walnut, pecan, cottonwood, hackberry, and river birch. These trees take root in rich alluvial soils which are then deposited throughout the bottomlands adjacent to the Deep Fork River when it swells over its banks.
Wildlife is diverse and abundant in the Deep Fork bottomland hardwood forest. Four of the state’s species of special concern dwell here: the river otter, Bell’s vireo, alligator snapping turtle, and the northern scarlet snake. Some 254 bird species rely on the refuge for at least part of the year, and biologists have confirmed 51 mammal species in the Deep Fork River basin. In addition, Okmulgee County is home to over 50 species of reptiles and 22 species of amphibians.
Around 45,000 visitors participate in a variety of activities at the refuge each year. Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, interpretation, and environmental education are the primary recreational activities supported by the refuge. 2,000 students visit the refuge annually for environmental education programs, including the annual Okmulgee County Archery Day.
The refuge maintains a fishing area at Montezuma Creek, the Railroad Trail and River Overlook, the Cussetah Bottoms Boardwalk area, as well as twenty five miles of unimproved trails and roads that connect our twenty two parking lots with our hunting and wildlife observation areas. For those visitors looking for a place to take an afternoon walk, the Cussetah Bottoms Boardwalk area provides ample opportunity to walk through the bottomland hardwood forest and enjoy the great outdoors. Canoeing and kayaking are popular around the Deep Fork River and this is one of the best ways to see the refuge.
The refuge office is stocked with maps, brochures, and friendly staff who are excited to share all the opportunities the refuge has to offer.