Oklahoma's Geography

Oklahoma's Geography
Oklahoma is located in the south central United States. The state's location midway between eastern and western coasts makes it a major transportation, communication, and distribution center. Oklahoma covers 69,898 square miles (181,035 sq. km). It ranks 18th in size among the 50 states. Oklahoma's interesting shape-like a cooking pan, complete with handle-has given it the nickname of the Panhandle State.

Much of Oklahoma consists of level plains, but the state also has rugged hills and mountains covered by green forests. It also has fertile farmland. Oklahoma has more than 300 lakes and almost 23,000 miles (37,015 km) of rivers and streams. Its land is drained by two great river systems-the Red and the Arkansas.

Oklahoma has a population of nearly 3,525,000. About three-fifths of Oklahomans live in the state's five metropolitan areas. These metropolitan areas, in order of population, are Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Lawton; Enid; and Fort Smith, Arkansas, which extends into Sequoyah County in Oklahoma.

Geographic Regions
Oklahoma has 10 main geographic regions. These regions are from east to west: (1) the Ozark Plateau, (2) the Prairie Plains, (3) the Ouachita Mountains, (4) the Sandstone Hills, (5) the Arbuckle Mountains, (6) the Wichita Mountains, (7) the Red River, (8) the Red Beds Plains, (9) the Gypsum Hills, and (10) the High Plains.

Oklahoma's Political Map

Oklahoma Geographic Regions Map

Ozark Plateau
The Ozark Plateau, shared with Missouri and Arkansas, covers Oklahoma's northeast corner. This rugged region has plenty of hills, swift streams, and steep river valleys. The areas between the river valleys are broad and flat. Steep bluffs have been formed where streams cut into the plateau. Many of the fast-flowing streams in the Ozark Plateau have been dammed for hydroelectric power, flood control, and recreation.

Prairie Plains
The Prairie Plans area lies west and south of the Ozark Plateau. Farming and cattle ranching take place there. Farmers grow vegetable crops, such as spinach, carrots, and snap beans. Most of the state's coal and large amounts of petroleum come from this region.
Ouachita Mountains
The Ouachita Mountains rise in southeastern Oklahoma on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. These mountains consist of high sandstone ridges that form the most rugged land surface in Oklahoma. Spring-fed streams pass through the narrow valleys between the ridges. Forests in the region make lumbering the region's most important industry.  

Sandstone Hills
The Sandstone Hills region stretches from the Kansas border in the north to near the Red River in southern Oklahoma. The hills reach about 250 to 400 feet (76 to 120 m) in height and are covered with thick forests. In cleared areas, farmers use the fertile soil to grow corn, soybeans, and fruit. Oil was found in the Sandstone Hills during the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are still important wells in the region today.

Arbuckle Mountains
The Arbuckle Mountains spread over an area of 1,000 square miles (2,600 sq. km) in south-central Oklahoma. Millions of years ago, they were once as high as Asia's Himalayas, the highest mountain system in the world today. Erosion over the centuries has worn them down until they now rise only 600 to 700 feet (180 to 210 m) high. The erosion has uncovered unusual rock formations. Much of the land in the region is used to raise cattle.

Wichita Mountains
The Wichita Mountains region lies in southwestern Oklahoma. It consists of rough granite peaks and many small artificial lakes. People created the lakes by damming the mountain streams. The lakes today provide water for animals and also help to control soil erosion.

Red River Region
Located in southern Oklahoma, the Red River region is known for its rolling prairies and forests. Many farms are also found in the Red River region. Farmers grow peanuts, cotton, and vegetables in the region's fertile soil.

Red Beds Plains
The Red Beds Plains region is the largest land area in Oklahoma. It extends from Kansas to Texas in a wide sweep through the middle of the state. The gently rolling land slopes downward from west to east. The eastern part has forested areas and the western part is mostly grassy. The region has fairly fertile soil. Farmers grow cotton and wheat in the southwestern part. Oil fields have been developed in some parts of the Red Beds Plains. Two different types of rock are found in the region, shale and sandstone. Shale is a kind of rock that is formed from hardened mud, and sandstone is a type of rock that is mostly formed from sand.

The Gypsum Hills
West of the Red Beds Plains, the Gypsum Hills rise from 150 to 200 feet (46 to 61 m). They are covered with gypsum, a soft, white or yellow mineral that sometimes forms transparent or see-through crystals. The Gypsum Hills are sometimes called the Glass, or Gloss, Mountains because the gypsum sparkles like glass in the sunlight.

The High Plains
The High Plains-areas of flat grasslands-spread across northwestern Oklahoma. They are part of the vast Great Plains of North America. This region of Oklahoma is called the High Plains because the land rises as high as 2,000 feet (610 m) on the eastern edge, to 4,973 feet (1,516 m) at Black Mesa-the highest point in the state. The High Plains include the Panhandle, a strip of land only 166 miles (267 km) long and 34 miles (55 km) wide. The Panhandle is the westernmost part of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Counties
Oklahoma County Map
Oklahoma is divided into 77 counties. Oklahoma's largest county by size is Osage County, which has 2,251 square miles (5,830 sq. km). The state's largest county by population is Oklahoma Country, home to about 661,000 people. Country governments are very active and provide many services to their citizens. Oklahoma's counties maintain Web sites where you can learn about their communities.

Oklahoma map

Oklahoma Counties

Adair County


Le Flore County


Alfalfa County


Lincoln County


Atoka County


Logan County


Beaver County


Love County


Beckham County


Major County


Blaine County


Marshall County


Bryan County


Mayes County


Caddo County


McClain County


Canadian County


McCurtain County


Carter County


McIntosh County


Cherokee County


Murray County


Choctaw County


Muskogee County


Cimarron County


Noble County


Cleveland County


Nowata County


Coal County


Okfuskee County


Comanche County


Oklahoma County


Cotton County


Okmulgee County


Craig County


Osage County


Creek County


Ottawa County


Custer County


Pawnee County


Delaware County


Payne County


Dewey County


Pittsburg County


Ellis County


Pontotoc County


Garfield County


Pottawatomie County


Garvin County


Pushmataha County


Grady County


Roger Mills County


Grant County


Rogers County


Greer County


Seminole County


Harmon County


Sequoyah County


Harper County


Stephens County


Haskell County


Texas County


Hughes County


Tillman County


Jackson County


Tulsa County


Jefferson County


Wagoner County


Johnston County


Washington County


Kay County


Washita County


Kingfisher County


Woods County


Kiowa County


Woodward County


Latimer County


Oklahoma's Natural Resources

Oklahoma's Climate
Most of Oklahoma has a warm, dry climate. Winters are generally mild, with winter temperatures highest in the south and steadily decreasing to the north. The northern border is the only part of the state that averages below freezing temperatures. Summers are generally hot with little variation in temperatures throughout the state. The northeastern corner and the Panhandle area to the west have the coolest summer temperatures because of their higher elevations. Oklahoma has wide differences in precipitation. The wettest part of the state is in the southeast with 50 inches (127 cm) average rainfall per year. The driest part of the state is in the Panhandle with 15 inches (38 cm) average rainfall per year. Snowfall ranges from 2 inches (5 cm) a year in the southeast to 25 inches (64 cm) in the northwest.

Oklahoma has a history of unpredictable weather. Periods of drought affected the state during the 1930s and the late 1990s. During droughts, farmers face the loss of crops due to lack of rainfall. Ranchers sometimes have to sell cattle because of the lack of green grass for grazing. Oklahoma also averages dozens of destructive tornadoes each year. Tornadoes are caused when cold fronts clash with warm and humid air. One tornado struck near Oklahoma City in 1999, with winds of 318 miles per hour (513 kph)-the highest ever recorded.

Plants and Animals
Forests cover about one-fifth of Oklahoma. Important trees include ashes, elms, hickories, pines, sweet gums, and walnut trees. Commercial forests are found in the eastern and southern parts of the state. Forest animals include deer, minks, opossums, raccoons, gray and red foxes, and gray and fox squirrels.

Prairie grasses provide grazing for millions of cattle. Other common prairie vegetation is mesquite and sagebrush. Oklahoma has many prairie animals. Armadillos, coyotes, prairie dogs, and rabbits are common on the plains of Oklahoma. American bison and Texas longhorns thrive in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawson.

Oklahoma has a wide variety of bird species. They include sparrows, mockingbirds, orioles, cardinals, meadowlarks, blackbirds, blue jays, robins, roadrunners, warblers, and scissor-tailed flycatchers. The scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state bird, was once hunted for its long tail feathers, but it is now protected by law. Oklahoma also has many kinds of ducks, geese, hawks, and owls.