Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve showcases a unique and beautiful area where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains.
This park in the Oklahoma Panhandle is split into two areas, the state park and the nature preserve. The state park is south of Kenton, Oklahoma, and the nature preserve is to the west of the town. The two areas are about 15 miles apart.
Camping at Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve has four campground areas and one group facility. For RVers, they have 30 amp and water hooking ups. Tent-only sites are also available, as well as primitive campsites.
There are 54 total campsites with 29 semi-modern RV sites with water and electric hookups. They have five pull-through sites, including one accessible site for persons with disabilities.
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve has 25 tent sites with grills, tables, and fire rings. One thing to note, the map on the website can be tricky to read. There is only one restroom. It is near the playground and the dump station. This is the only restroom in the park, however, most of the campsites are close by. But keep in mind if you choose the Lake View Area or sites 17-19 in the West Canyon Area, you will not be close.
When I first made my reservations, I had originally chosen campsite 12 in the West Canyon Area. But on the map on the website, I could not find the restroom. When my sister decided to come, I knew she’d want to be close to it. So I switched sites. After we got to the park, I realized 12 is directly across from the restroom. I had actually moved us further away. But we had a very nice campsite in the Creek Area, and it wasn’t too far from the restrooms.
There are two short hiking trails near the campgrounds at Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve. A longer trek, the Black Mesa Trail, is within the nature preserve about 15 miles to the northwest. This trail takes hikers to the highest point in Oklahoma. It is 4.3 miles one way and gains about 650 feet in elevation.
On the Black Mesa Trail, you can see the beautiful and unique terrain that makes up this area. The trail ends at a large stone monument marking the highest point in Oklahoma.
The Black Mesa Vista Trail is a 1-mile trail that follows along the road near the campground. There are three access points for this trail from the campground, and it can be made into a loop by walking back along the road.
The Black Mesa Bird Haven Nature Trail is a 1/4-mile long path from the road to near the top of the mesa. Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve is a wonderful place for birders. I saw numerous varieties of birds while I visited the park.
In addition to the abundance of bird species, Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve is home to many rare species of animals. The area is where the Rocky Mountains meet the shortgrass prairie.
Because of this collide of ecosystems, the area is both the easternmost and westernmost portions of several species’ range. This makes a wonderfully unique mix of wildlife.
Peoples have called this area home for thousands of years. From the 1700s to the late 1800s Native Americans called Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve home. The Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes lived and hunted in the area.
Spanish explorers crossed the region in the 1500s. And during the 1800s, the Santa Fe Trail crossed south and east of the state park. A marker shows where the trail crosses the highway along Highway 325 with a placard.
The Kenton Museum in the town of Kenton has a wealth of information about the settlers who inhabited the area within the last century. There you can learn all about the lives of those who lived there 100 plus years ago.
You can also see plenty of dinosaur bones and footprint casts, and learn about the geologist who discovered them.
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve is a geologists dream. In addition to dinosaur bones and footprints, there are petrified logs and multiple layers of rocks.
Black Mesa gets its name from the layer of rock at the top of the mesa, which is black. This layer is lava rock that once covered the area 30 million years ago. It was formed by lava flow from a now extinct volcano. If you look closely at the black rocks you can see the porousness of the rock.
At the north end of the RV campground, just north of the park office is the Petrified Log Exhibit. Here you can see stone logs. They look like fallen trees, but when you look closely you can see the crystals and other rock features.
Across from the parking lot of the trailhead for the Black Mesa Trail, is a showcase of dinosaur footprints. Here you can go and step where a dinosaur once ran or walked. To find the footprints, follow the dirt road to the end and walk down into the wash. It is pretty neat to try to imagine what animal made those prints and what he was doing.
Fishing and boating
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve surrounds Lake Carl Etling. It’s a small lake but is stocked with trout in the winter months.
Visit three states at once
North of the town of Kenton, past the trailhead for the Black Mesa Trail and past the road to the dinosaur tracks, you will find the tri-state marker. This marker shows you the point where Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico meet.
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve
For a little park in the middle of nowhere, there is so much to do at Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve. From walking where dinosaurs walked to imagining what life was like for the Plains Indians, to enjoying the unique terrain and wildlife, you will not be disappointed in this Oklahoma state park.