Oklahoma is a land of contrasts; rolling plains, tall grass prairies, heavily wooded hills, and mountains. It's a land of contrasting cultures too: a welding of the Five Civilized Indian Tribes, white settlers, and Plains Indians. All these give a distinctive flavor to travel in different parts of the state. The rugged, frontier spirit is evident in events and attractions statewide.
Eastern Oklahoma is hilly and mountainous with many clear lakes, rivers, and streams. This was the final home of the Five Civilized Tribes after they were forced from ancestral homes in the east to resettle in this part of the country. The heartbreaking Trail of Tears journey to Indian Territory is portrayed each summer at Tahlequah at the Cherokee Heritage Center. The Tahlequah area offers rivers for canoe trips, miles of hiking trails, several state parks, and recreation areas lining large lakes used for boating, fishing, and waterskiing.
Central Oklahoma is taken over by rolling prairies and red-soil-tinted lakes and streams. This was Indian Territory, settled in great land runs near the end of the 19th century, with the Run of 1889 being the most famous. Towns of 10,000 or more people sprang up in a single day. One of them, Oklahoma City, the state's capital and largest city, dominates the region. Along with Tulsa to the northeast, it provides a full urban fare of museums, shopping centers, theaters, zoos, nightlife, hotels, restaurants, golf, tennis, and world-class horse racing.
Western Oklahoma is a rugged land dotted by state parks with lodges and camping areas in secluded places. Along the Cimarron River in northwestern Oklahoma are great Sahara-like sand dunes, and not far away are salt plains like those in Death Valley. Farther west are volcanic mesas, and the granite Wichita Mountains rise to the southwest. This was the ancient home of the Plains Indians. Much evidence of their culture remains in Anadarko, Lawton, and Fort Sill. Powwows featuring dancing and games are held in summer.
The full range of Oklahoma's history can be seen in forts, battlegrounds, log cabins, a homesteader's sod house, capitols of the Indian nations, and mansions of early Oklahoma merchants and oilmen. Modern Oklahoma gives a glimpse of what frontier America was like, yet offers metropolitan advantages in its cities.