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Catoosa

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The "Blue Whale" Town

The town of Catoosa, just east of Tulsa, is best known for its typical Route 66 landmarks, the Arrowood Trading Post and the Blue Whale. Visit the original Route 66 Bridge built in 1913 and the Historic Bird Creek Bridge as well as its D.W. Correl Museum and the Catossa Historical Museum with vintage cars and railway artifacts.

Catoosa OK

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About Catoosa, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 623 ft. (190 m). Population: 7,151 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

A small town, in the Metro area of Tulsa, spanning Wagoner and Rogers Counties in northeastern Oklahoma. Its motto is: "It Just Feels Good".

Big Blue Whale, Catoosa

Blue Whale, Catoosa
Big Blue Whale, Catoosa, Oklahoma
by

Historic Route 66 (OK-66) crosses the town with a notheast to southwest course.

Catoosa's History

See Claremore, History for full information on the region's history.

During the late 1700s, French fur traders explored the Arkansas River and reached a river that they named Verdigris (from the French words for "green" and "gray"). At that time, this area was part of the French Louisiana.

After the US purchase of Louisiana in 1803, it remained a remote area and was designated as Indian Territory, for the relocation of Native Americans, removed from their tribal lands in the East. The Cherokee Nation was assigned this territory and they settled it.

Fort Spunky (1860s)

A fortified farmhouse on the south side of Route 66, next to Spunky Creek, was used in the mid 1860s by the Union forces. It was a mail and stage coach station on the Star Mail route through this area before the arrival of the railroad.

Spunky

Someone who is courageous and determined. A good name for a Fort.

After the American Civil War, a post office was erected there, and its first postmaster was Will Rogers' uncle, John Gunther Schrimsher (1835 - 1905).

Some ruins are still visible: the framework and the stone chimney of the original building remain.

The Name Catoosa

Catoosa is named after the "Old Catoos", a rounded hill just west of the town. It is a deformation of the Cherokee expression "Gi-tu-zi" which means "Here live the People of the Light", a native clan that lived on the hill.

There is a historic marker located half a mile north of this point, at the Big Blue Whale Park.

A small rural community grew along the stage coach route. And the rails of the St. Louis - San Francisco Railway reached Catoosa in 1882. And it became a point for shipping cattle to St. Louis. William Halsell established a Ranch at Bird Creek and in 1883 a post office opened at Catoosa.

Farming, coal mining boosted growth, and in 1926, Route 66 was aligned through the town and re-aligned in 1936 to its current location (now it is Oklahoma highway 66). In 1957 the Interstate I-44 was opened, and bypassed the town.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in Catoosa:

Lodging Near Catoosa

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>> There are several RV campgrounds in the Tulsa - Claremore - Catoosa area.

Weather in Catoosa

The average high temperature in January is 48°F and the low is 27.5°F (8.9 and -2.5°C). In July the average high and low temperatures are 93.1 and 71.3°F (33.9 and 21.8°C).

Rainfall is 41 inches per year (1.041 mm) with most rain falling during May, June and Sept. There are 93 rainy days a year.

Snow: 9.6 in. (24.3 cm) per year, between Nov. and March, the record: 29.6 inches in on e year.

Tornado Risk: Catoosa lies within the "Tornado Alley in Oklahoma and experiences some 10 Tornado watches every year.

Read more about: the risk of Tornadoes on Route66.

Route 66 and Catoosa Oklahoma
Location of Catoosa, Route 66

Getting to Catoosa

It is 10 miles southwest of Claremore.

Tulsa is 18 miles west of Catoosa, along Route 66 and I-44.

Map of Catoosa and Route66

in Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: Interstate highways, where they overlap the old alignment.

  Click to See the Western Oklahoma alignment

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Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Catoosa

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Route 66 in Oklahoma

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Oklahoma.

Catoosa, OK: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Catoosa's Attractions

Catoosa has several attractions: the famous Blue Whale, an original 1913 Route 66 bridge and the historic Bird Creek Bridge on US 66. It has two museums, a casino and a Route 66 Indian Trading Post.

Original Route 66 Bridge from 1913

Over 100 years old

The first Route 66 roadbed in Oklahoma, created in 1926 was a patchwork of different roads pieced together to define the new US Highway 66, most of them were primitive roads.

And the original road entering Catoosa from the north did so along current E0570 Rd., with an east to west course, from modern OK-66 ⁄ Route 66 to Cherokee St.

The road crossed a bridge which predated Route 66, as it was built in 1913. The old bridge is still there, after more than 100 years! though it is now closed to traffic.

It is a steel pony truss and wood plank bridge that crosses Spunky Creek. Its longest span is 66 ft. and its deck is 13.8 ft. wide. The total length is 133 ft.

Catoosa, 1913 Spunky Creek Bridge, Original Route 66 alignment

Old Spunky Creek Bridge, Route 66 in Catoosa
A 1913 Bridge over Spunky Creek, Route 66 in Catoosa Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

After the bridge, the road heads west, meets Cherokee St. and takes a left, going through the town of Catoosa. The Bridge was made in Leavenworth, Kansas.

After one year, the alignment was moved and paved with Portland cement: it entered town along Ford St., just south of the original route.

The Hard Rock Casino

Operated by the Cherokee Nation, is a resort with two hotels, restaurants and a golf course.

It is the venue of the annual Cherokee Art Market and the International Cherokee Film Festival..

Lookout Mountain

1.2 miles south of the town, is Lookout Mountain (well, by Oklahoma standards it is quite high!), altitude: 914 ft. (279 m), which can be seen, covered with woods, inside the Links of the Cherokee Hills Golf Club, the north west at the intersection of Route 66 and N 193rd E Ave.

The Indians had built a stone cairn on its summit probably as a trail marker. Now a Casino operates next to it.

Blue Duck or Bluford Duck, (1858 - 1895)

An Old West, Cherokee Indian outlaw, was condemned to death in 1886 for the murder of a farmer named Samuel Wyrick. After appeal he was given life in prison but pardoned in 1895 by President Cleveland. He died shortly after, of tuberculosis.

Visit his tomb: Section D, Grave 4, Dick Duck Cemetery, Pine & 193rd St. Catoosa

Arrowood Trading Post

Arrowood

Arrowood is a Cherokee surname

Located across the road from the Blue Whale, on the eastern side of OK-66 (Route 66).

A genuine indian trading post. It was opened by Chief Wolfe Robe Hunt, who operated it with his wife, Glenal. They originally had a stor in Tulsa, which they opened in 1936, and made a living selling Native American crafts. They opened a second shop in Catoosa and added pottery and jewelry to the Osage beadwork.

Arrowood Trading Post

Arrowood Trading Post, Vanessa Ezekowitz

Trading posts were popular in the 1940s and 50s, as they offered "exotic" Indian curios and Western handicrafts to city-dwelling tourists.

When the Interstate opened in late 1950s, the Chief closed his Tulsa store and focused on the Catoosa one, which was closer to the Turner Turnpike. He took his brother-in-law, Hugh Davis as a partner (Davis built the Blue Whale across the road) and expanded the store to include a cafe and a service station. They named it "Catoosa Indian Trading Post".

Chief Wolfe Robe Hunt bought out his partner, but after his death, the store closed. It was reopened in 1990 by Dave and Pam Jennings renamed as the "Arrowood Trading Post", but closed in the late 1990s. Now it is a car repair shop.

Blue Whale of Catoosa

2680 OK-66, Catoosa. www.bluewhaleroute66.com

The Blue Whale was built by Hugh S. Davis. And is the most famous landmark along Route 66 in Catoosa. His property had a pond where, after his retirement, he decided to build a "fish". The fish became a whale and it was a big one too.

He made an iron framework for the body, 80 ft. long and 20 ft. tall and covered it with cement. The making of the whale took 2 years, and was completed in July 1972. People would come and swim in the pond and slide off the whale's tail.

The Blue Whale closed in 1988 and Dvis passed away in 1990. It is now owned by Dee Dee (Davis) Belt and her husband. And was refurbished in 1997 by the Catoosa Chamber of Comerce.

See its Google Street View.

Bird Creek Bridge on Route 66

When Route 66 was created in 1926, there was only one bridge across Verdigris River. It was a steel truss bridge built in 1925. It was a bit too narrow (only 18 ft.) so a new alignment for Route 66 was desfined and built just to the south of it in 1936.

The new roadbed had a wider (24 foot) and safer bridge. The current McClellan - Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS, an inland waterway system linking the Tulsa port of Catoosa with the Mississippi River) did not exist in those days, as it was built in the 1960s-1970s, ,so what is now Bird Creek was in fact the main channel of Verdigris River.

In 1957 two more lanes were added to Route 66 and a second bridge was built for the eastbound lanes. It was a bit wider (28 ft.) than the original 1936 bridge, which carried the westbound lanes.

The 1936 bridge was reconditioned and rededicated in 1957 and a monument was erected at the southeastern tip of the bridges. They were named as the H. Tom Night Jr. Bridge, a Claremore City attorney, a State Highway Commissioner and a State Senator.

The 1936 bridge was replaced in 2011, but some of its spans have been preserved at the nearby Molly's Landing

Spans of the 1936 Bird Creek Bridge

The spans that were "rescued" from the 1936 bridge. Nicolas Henderson

Molly's Landing

3700 N Old Hwy 66, Catoosa. www.mollyslanding.com

This restaurant is located to the north of Route 66 just after the "Bird Creek Bridge". It has a gift shop and chocolate fountains.

Its grounds exhibit some of the spans removed from the 1936 bridge when it was removed and replaced by a new one in 2011.

The 1926 alignment of Route 66 crossed the Verdigris River north of the current bridges, and then took a sharp left curve along what is now North Old Hwy 66, which crosses OK-66 just west of the Bird Creek Bridges. Take this road, and at the entrance of a local restaurant, Molly's Landing, you will see some of the old spans and the dedication monument.

Tulsa Port of Catoosa

Just north of Catoosa is the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, located at the end of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, an inland waterway that links it through the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers to the Mississippi River and along it, to the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the first (or second behind Duluth, Minnesota according to other sources) farthest inland seaport in the United States.

The port is in an industrial park and handles manufactured goods and agricultural products, exporting them to the whole world. It handles over 2.7 Million tons of cargo per year.

The waterway is ice free and its locks are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Verdigris River

The Verdigris river is a tributary of the Arkansas River and therefore part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Its sources ar ein Kansas and its length is about 310 miles (498 km).

It is mentioned in the novel "Little House on the Prairie", written in 1935 by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Mural outside of the D.W. Correll Museum, Catoosa, OK.
Mural outside of the D.W. Correll Museum in Catoosa, OK. Public Domain.

Catoosa's Historical Museum

207 S. Cherokee, Catoosa OK.

Replica of an old train depot with exhibits of Catoosa's past. Vist the caboose outside of the museum, and its pictures and railroad memorabilia, and more.

Tue. and Fri. 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. (More information: (918)266-3296)

The D.W. Correll Museum

19934 East Pine Street, Catoosa OK.

Display of rocks, gems and sea shells, vintage whiskey bottles and antique cars from the early 1900s, an 1898 steam engine car and also an antique toy car collection.

The72 foot wide mural shown above, by Lance Hunter, is painted on the main building.

On Pine and Cherokee, open Tue - Sat. from 11 AM to 5 PM.

Tours & Itineraries

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit the nearby towns of Claremore and Tulsa to the west, with their classic Route 66 landmarks.

US Highway 66

Historic Route 66 alignment

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Oklahoma.

Natural Attractions

National & State Parks

Redbud Valley Nature Preserve

North 161st East Avenue, 3.8 miles north of I-44 (Exit #237 is 161st East Ave.)

Managed by Nature conservancy and Oxley Nature Center, it preserves plants and animals unique to this area. Ideal for hiking and watching birds and animals. Restrooms, picnic tables and drinking water are available. Admission is Free.

Wed. through Sun. 8 AM - 5 PM. www.oxleynaturecenter.org/redbud.htm.

See the nearby places ideal for outdoor recreation and enjoying nature here: State Parks near Catoosa - Calremore

Sources

Bob Burke, Eric Dabney, Historic Rogers County: An illustrated history, pp. 37

George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names, pp. 167.

Oklahoma; a guide to the Sooner state. Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Oklahoma. 1941

Phil and Pete Payette, Oklahoma, American Forts.

Photo by Vanessa Ezekowitz, under CC BY -SA 3.0 License.

Image by Nicolas Henderson under its CC BY 2.0 License

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License