Saturday, November 8, 2014

Liberty Lake, Guthrie, OK

Liberty Lake is located south of Guthrie, OK, and was built in 1948 as both a water supply and recreational lake for the city. It can be found on the DeLorme Oklahoma Atlas and Gazetteer on P. 32, Grid I-3, or Page 110 of the Lakes of Oklahoma map book prepared by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The lake has a 5-mile shoreline.

From Kingfisher to Guthrie, we traveled 30 miles on Rt. 33. This is one of many of Oklahoma’s white-knuckled, take-your-life-in-your-hands roads. While there have been some upgrades, for many long stretches the lanes are only 10-feet wide, there is no safety edge outside the white line, and there are no shoulders. The white line marks the edge of the pavement, and then it drops off at a sharp angle into a deep ditch. The road is heavily used by large oil and gas industry drilling equipment and oversized loads on 18-wheelers that travel at high speeds. If anything goes slightly wrong, you have a choice between being wrecked in a head-on collision on the highway or being wrecked in the ditch. The very morning we returned home, two first-year junior-high school English teachers, ages 24 and 27, were killed on Rt. 33 in a head-on collision east of Guthrie while carpooling to school. Ironically, the road at the location of the collision has been slightly improved.

Looking south down the length of the lake.
Guthrie is an Oklahoma tourist attraction due to being the first capitol of the Oklahoma Territory, and of the state once statehood was achieved. It also has well preserved Victorian architecture from the 19th century, and is a National Historic Landmark. Unlike many towns and cities, like Oklahoma City, where urban development has destroyed much of its heritage, the central business and residential area of Guthrie remains mainly intact. Guthrie began in 1887 as the Deer Creek station for the Southern Kansas Railway, which was later acquired by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa-Fe Railway.

The sun setting across the lake.
At sunrise on April 22, 1889, the population of Deer Creek was zero. At noon, two million acres of Indian Territory lands that had been assigned to several tribes was opened for white settlement. With the firing of a gun at noon, 50,000 to 60,000 settlers rushed across the line and headed west to stake their homestead claims. By nightfall, both Guthrie and Oklahoma City had been created with populations each of 10,000 tent dwellers. Within mere months, Guthrie became known as the Queen of the Prairie with modern stone and brick buildings, the first being the National Loan and Trust Co., municipal water and electricity, a mass-transit system, and even underground garages for horses and carriages. Eventually, after being successful in acquiring a meat-packing industry and getting several railroads to converge there, Oklahoma City began to steal Guthrie’s stardom, and eventually became the state capitol in 1910.

Academy Road, which leads south from the west side to Guthrie to Liberty Lake, is a 5-mile unimproved dirt and gravel road. There are both good and bad things about Liberty Lake. The good is that the lake is away from the city and in a beautiful, rural setting. Unfortunately, water levels are low, again about 6 feet, and the boat ramp is closed. The bad points are several. The grounds have next to no facilities, no water at the sites nor even a hydrant in the campground, and poor maintenance. The only water is a hose on the side of the gatekeeper’s building. There are no restrooms or showers, but the porta-potties had just been serviced and were clean. There is apparently only one site with electric, and with the campground built on the side of a hill, only a couple sites where an RV can be leveled, making most of the sites primitive. There are no shortage of regulations, which are enumerated in a fine-print, two-sided tri-fold flyer, and also no shortage of fees. Day use of the park is $3.00, but free for seniors. Camping for up to 7 days is $14 a day with no facilities, or $17 on the one site with electric. There is no seniors’ discount for camping. The boat ramp fee is $5.

The campground service road.
I had two experiences here that I hope to never repeat. I’m very reluctant to criticize a campground. I can almost always make myself comfortable and happy, and accept that with a thousand tasks to perform, a campground cannot be groomed like my own yard. It is, after all, camping, but I found myself very unhappy here. The regulations say that one can only drive on the service roads provided, but the foot-and-a-half deep by 69 ft. long hog wallow that was to serve as the service road had not been created by just the last light rain. It has obviously been there a long time, and the fees collected had not been used for the dump truck load of rock that would have corrected the problem. I didn’t want to drive across their grass and possibly leave ruts, so in trying to do the right thing I did something very, very foolish that I will never do again. I felt I could navigate around the hole. The infamous Oklahoma red clay collapsed beneath me, and I sat there helpless as I felt both the truck and trailer slide sideways into the wallow, burying everything up to the axles. The trailer laid well over on its right side so the doors were level with the surrounding ground. I stood there looking at the mess for some time feeling really stupid. I envisioned needing to re-mortgage the house to get a tow truck all the way out there in the country on a weekend. Fortunately, we carry a good supply of wood blocks for jacking the trailer level. It would take Jean and I two hours of jacking and blocking to get the rig out of the hole. By that time, there wasn’t anything on either the truck or trailer that wasn’t covered with mud, and Jean and I were totally exhausted---much to exhausted to go paddling.


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