Located in the South Central region of the United States, Oklahoma is surrounded by Texas to the south and west, Kansas to the north, Missouri to the northeast, Arkansas to the east, New Mexico to the west, and Colorado to the northwest. It is part of the Upland South, the 20th-most populous and 28th-most extensive of the 50 U.S. states. The state’s residents are called Oklahomans (or “Okies”), and Oklahoma City is its capital and largest city.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT OKLAHOMA
- Capital City: Oklahoma City
- Largest City: Oklahoma City
- Nickname: Land of the Red Man
- Statehood: November 16, 1907; 46th state
- Population (as of 2020): 3,963,516
- Abbreviation: OK
- State bird: a scissor-tailed flycatcher
- State flower: Oklahoma rose
- Total Size Of The State: 69,898 sq mi (181,038 km2)
Thirty thousand years ago, people probably arrived in what is now Oklahoma. Native American tribes, including the Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Wichita, Kiowa, and Osage, thousands of years later occupied the land.
The first European to explore this region was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541, who sought gold-filled cities.
Explorers and traders from Spain and France had come to the area by the 1700s. Spain and France controlled parts of the area at different times. From Spain, the land was acquired by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800. The United States bought the Louisiana Territory (a vast swath of land, including Oklahoma today) three years later.
Native Americans were forced to leave their homelands in the eastern United States in the 1830s and move to what’s now Oklahoma, then called Indian Territory. This region was later renamed Oklahoma Territory in the 1890s. The Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were again combined in 1907 to become the state of Oklahoma. Currently, Oklahoma is home to more than 30 tribes.
Why Does It Have That Name?
Choctaw language, which the Choctaw people speak, combines two words to form Oklahoma.
Settlers were allowed to enter parts of Oklahoma in 1889 and claim land for themselves. Nevertheless, some people could reach these spots before the territory was officially opened. As a result, the state became known as the Sooner State.
Geographic Features and Landforms
Colorado and Kansas border Oklahoma in the north, Missouri and Arkansas in the east, Texas in the south, and New Mexico in the west. Ten different geographic regions can be found in the state. In the northeast is the Ozark Plateau. In addition to ridges, steep valleys, caves, and sinkholes, it includes a bit of the Ozark mountain range.
The Prairie Plains are fertile farmland where livestock grazes in the northeast. However, many of the Ouachita Mountains are located in the southeast, including Ouachita National Forest (also part of Arkansas.)
Sandstone Hills are low, rocky hills in east-central Oklahoma. The Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma are one of North America’s oldest ranges, dating back 1.3 billion years. However, much of their surface has been eroded. You can reach the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge by traveling southwest. Oklahoma’s border with Texas runs along the Red River Valley. This area has sandy, fertile soil along with some forests and the Red River, which forms a wiggly border between the two states.
There are gentle hills of red sandstone and shale in Oklahoma’s Red Beds Plains, the state’s largest land region. The Gypsum Hills lie to the west, featuring low hills topped up to 20 feet of gypsum, a soft mineral. In the northwest are the High Plains, which are flat grasslands. A 34-mile strip runs beneath Colorado’s west side, including the Oklahoma panhandle. In this area, the temperature and humidity are the highest and driest.
The Natural World
Oklahoma’s mammals include pronghorn antelopes, American bison, armadillos, and coyotes. In addition, there are many species of birds, including greater roadrunners, red-headed woodpeckers, and scissortail flycatchers.
Amphibians in Oklahoma include gray tree frogs and Woodhouse toads (the state’s most enormous toad). Alligators, snapping turtles, and copperhead snakes are reptiles.
Various trees grow here, including red maples, sweetgums, Ponderosa pines, hickories, and eastern redbuds (Oklahoma’s state tree). The state’s wildflowers include coneflowers, buttonbush, Indian blankets, and ghost flowers.
The state produces a lot of petroleum, crude oil, and natural gas.
Some Fun Facts About Oklahoma
- Celebrities from the state include baseball player Mickey Mantle, folk singer Woody Guthrie, country singer Garth Brooks, and actors Will Rogers and Brad Pitt.
- It contains Native American artifacts, a model turn-of-the-century town, and a kid’s corral where visitors can learn about the Old West.
- The annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in Oklahoma City brings people worldwide to see Native American artwork and dance performances.
- The state is home to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder in sports.