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New Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hiking restrictions

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 7:59 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The Wichita Mountains Wildlife refuge is enacting an Emergency Closure Order, limiting the times people can hike while in the refuge.

All visitors will need to exit the trails, and the Mount Scott roadway, no later than 10 a.m. Fishing, wildlife photography, Kayaking, Picnics, and limited camping will still be allowed.

Refuge officials said the restrictions are necessary after recent safety concerns, and with an uptick in rescues due to the hot weather.

“There’s right at 24,000 acres of public use lands that people can hike and even though they get out at a trail-head, like the one we’re at now, you can see the vast area that’s behind us... there’s no telling where they’ll be at out there. Which leads back to the complication for search and rescue, when you start thinking that we’ve got someone out there and we know they’re hurt, or we know they haven’t reported back when they should, finding them in that is really tough. So that’s one of the reasons why we’ve reduced it. Some of the search and rescues we’ve went on has lasted hours after hours, and a rescuer can only give you so many hours before they put themselves in danger,” said Quinton Smith the visitor Service Manager.

Smith said that if you’re planning to visit the refuge, make sure to hydrate, days in advance, and make sure to wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. He also recommends not placing all your trust in a cell phone... because service in the refuge isn’t a guarantee.

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