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Elk City

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Natural Gas Capital of the World

Elk City, has several sites Listed in the National Register of Historic Places: Casa Grande Hotel, Hedlund Motor Company Building, Storm House and the Whited Grist Mill. Its sprawling Museum Complex (National Route 66, Old Town, Farm & Ranch Museums) is worth visiting as well as the World's tallest non-operating oil rig.

Elk City OK

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About Elk City, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 1,919 ft (585 m). Population: 11,693 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Elk City is an important town in Western Oklahoma, in the northeastern part of Beckham County, on Route 66. It is the "Natural Gas Capital of the World".

Old 1928 Timber Creek Bridge on Route 66, Elk City, Oklahoma

Timber Creek Bridge, Elk City, Oklahoma Route 66
Old 1928 Timber Creek Bridge on Route 66, Elk City Oklahoma
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

This part of Oklahoma has been inhabited for over ten thousand years. The historical period begins with the 1541 expedition of Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado, who was seeking his own "Eldorado", (Quivira), a mythical city of gold.

In the mid 1800s, the U.S. government relocated in Oklahoma tribes from eastern US (from Ohio to Delaware to Florida) and also from other parts west of the Mississippi River. The natives were granted Reservations in the Indian Territory. But later, in the 1880s the policy changed: Indians were to be assimilated. The Reservations were disolved by giving each tribal member a plot of 160 acres and buying back the rest of the land. This created a surplus territory which was then "opened" to settlement to non-natives.

The Name: Elk City

U.S. Army Captain Randolph B. Marcy explored the area in 1852 and when they reached the area where Elk City is now located, Marcy noticed "elk tracks upon the stream we passed in our march today, I have called it 'Elk Creek'... elk were frequently seen in the Wichita Mountains; but now they are seldom met with in this part of the country"

So it was named after the elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) a large member of the deer family native to North America.

See the Bull Elk Statue on the corner of 3rd and Washington

From 1875 to 1895 cattle was driven through the area from Texas to the railheads in Dodge City - Kansas for sale in the eastern markets along The Great Western Cattle Trail which passed close to present Elk City's location.

Settlers staked out their homesteads in the area after the 1892 Cherokee & Arapaho Opening, but the town would have to wait until 1901 when the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company sold lots for a town along the railroad that the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (later Rock Island RR) was building towards Texas.

In those days the town was in the south of Roger Mills County, but in 1907 it became a new county: Beckham.

The first post office (1901) was named Busch, but it was changed (because there was another one with the same name) to Elk City in 1907.

The tracks reached the town in 1901 and another railway went through Elk City in 1910. It was linked to the world. That year population was 3,165 residents.

It was hit by two fires, one in 1903 and another in 1906 which burned many of the wood frame buildings to the ground.

Trivia

Miss America 1981 Susan Powell and songwriter James "Jimmy" Webb are from Elk City

Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926 along the former Oklahoma State Highway No. 3, this increased local business as motels, diners and service stations sprung up to cater to the travelers.

The economy originally focused on farming now has a strong backing from the oil and natural gas (first found in 1947), and led to its self-proclamation as "Natural Gas Capital of the World".

Where to Stay

Book your hotel at Elk City

There are several hotels in Elk City

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Lodging Near Elk City along Route 66

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>> There are RV campgrounds in Elk City.

Weather in Elk City

This part of Oklahoma is a relatively dry region. Summers are warm and wetter than winters which are cool and dry.

Average high in summer (Jul) is 92.6°F (33.7°C) and the low is 68°F (20°C) . During winter (Jan), the average high 46.8° (8.2°C) is and the low is below freezing: 22.1°F (-5.5°C)

Rainfall is 28.8 inches per year (731 mm), reflecting the drier conditions of Western Oklahoma.

Snow can fall in the area at any time between September and May (the first snowfall takes place usually, on the first week of December). Its altitude causes greater snowfall than locations further east: averaging 11” per year (with maximum values of about 40”) 27 to 102 cm.

Tornado risk

Oklahoma's "Tornado Alley includes the region around Elk City which experiences around 11 Tornado watches every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Route 66 and Elk City Oklahoma
Location of Elk City, Route 66

Getting to Elk City

Heading east from Elk City along Route 66 are the towns of: Canute (6 mi.), Foss (13 mi.), Clinton (27 mi.), Weatherford (43 mi.) and even further, Oklahoma City (116 mi.)

To the west, is Sayre (18 mi.) and Erick (36 mi.) and the "last town in Oklahoma on Route 66": Texola (41 mi.). Further west, in Texas is the town of: Shamrock (57 mi.).

Map of Elk City and Route66

in Oklahoma.

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

The Black: line shows the 1926-1932 alignment from Bridgeport through Geary and Calumet.

  Click to See the Eastern Oklahoma alignment

See Route 66's alignment in Texas

Remove or restore State shading
 

Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Elk City

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

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

Below we give information on Route 66's 1926 alignment near Elk City.

Elk City, Oklahoma: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Elk City its Route 66 Attractions

This typical western Oklahoma town has several historical buildings: Casa Grande Hotel, Hedlund Motor Company Building, Storm House and the Whited Grist Mill. It has a sprawling Museum Complex that includes the National Route 66, Old Town and the Farm & Ranch Museums plus the World's tallest non-operating oil rig.

World's tallest non-operating oil rig

NW corner of N. Madison St. and Route 66, Elk City

See its location map and street View.

It is very appropriate for a town that calls itself "the Natural Gas Capital of the World" to have in its central district a towering oil rig, which is in fact the world's tallest, non-operating oil rig.

It is 180 feet (55 m) tall, that is roughly the height of a 22 story building. It can be seen all across the downtown area.

The rig was built in the mid-1960s for the Atomic Energy Commission to drill deep shafts for atomic bombs, which were test-detonated underground. Later they were used for for conventional oil and gas drilling.

Museum Complex

2717, West 3rd St., Elk City

See its Street View and location map.

A sprawling museum complex with three museums linked by one location and only one admission fee.

National Route 66 and Transportation Museum

2717, West 3rd St., Elk City OK.

A trip from Chicago to Los Angeles in one museum, brochures, audio kiosks, artifacts and exhibits of the Mother Road, murals, and even a collection of Indian motorcycles.

Old Town Museum

2717, West 3rd St., Elk City OK.

Clothes, toys and furniture of the early 1900s, a mock up of window front displays (bank, general store) and of the world's largest rodeo stock company. A train depot with a caboose. There is an Opera House at the site too.

Farm and Ranch Museum

2717, West 3rd St., Elk City OK.

The big red barn houses a collection of farm implements and outside there is a variety of windmills displaying their evolution.

Blacksmith Shop

A must, it gives a clear idea of how important the Blacksmith was: they did not only shoe horses, they fixed and made iron tools, plows and more!

All Museums: Open daily from 9 AM - 7 PM (Summer) and to 5 PM (Winter). Sundays 1 - 5 PM. Admission covers the whole complex. (580) 225-2207

Historic sites in Elk City

Casa Grande Hotel

103 E 3rd St., Elk City, OK

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

On the NE corner of the junction, it was the largest Route 66 hotel between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas. Built in 1928 by E.M. Woody.

See its Street View and location map.

Built in brick with Bedford stone decorations. It was a popular style during the 1920s and early 30s, portraying the American Southwestern culture. It would later be replaced by the tourist court and the motel.

Anadarko Basin Museum of Natural History

103 E 3rd St., Elk City OK.

With rocks, fossils, minerals and all type of gear and gadgets related to oil and gas exploration. It is housed in the Casa Grande Hotel

Evolution of Iconic Motels on Route 66

The Flamingo Motel 2000 W 3rd. St., Elk City, was during the 1950s a strikingly modern motel which promoted itself in postcards like the one shown below as:

The newest and most modern in Elk City Nicely appointed units in an attractive new brick motel. 24 beautiful units -T.V. - Refrigerated Air Conditioning - Thermostat heat - Telephones, Swimming Pool - Connecting Units - Children's Playground. Your Host: Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bell"

1950s Postcard view of Flamingo Motel, Elk City OK
A 1950s postcard view of Flamingo Motel, Elk City OK.
James R. Powell Route 66 Collection, Lake County Discovery Museum

Below is the current appearance of this motel, a 2013 Street View. It's swimming pool is gone, but the main office and the rooms although changed are clearly recognizable (see the office's windows). The iconic vintage 1950s Motel sign is gone, replaced by a more sedate one (those 50's neon signs were much more charming and enticing don't you think?).

2013 View of Flamingo Motel, Elk City OK
A 2013 Street View of Flamingo Motel, Elk City OK. Google

Hedlund Motor Company Building

206 S Main, Elk City, OK

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Set on the SE corner, tis is a historic building constructed in 1918 for Oklahoma's second-oldest Ford dealership.

See its Street View and location map.

Built in Mission Revival style (it is the only commercial building in town to use this style): stucco walls, inlaid clay tiles and tiled roof with curved parapets.

Storm House

721 W Broadway, Elk City, OK

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Built for the Storm family in 1930 in Spanish Colonial Revival Style.

See its Street View and location map.

It has stuccoed walls with red clay tiles on the roof, and arcaded front porch.

Whited Grist Mill

Original location: 306 E. 7th St., Elk City, OK (Now relocated to the Museum)

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Built in 1903, it is a grist mill (mill for grinding grain, especially the customer's own grain).

It was the only grist mill in Elk City and was run by the Whited family until it closed in 1944 for lack of spares during World War II. It milled flower and corn. The mill was moved in 1985 to the museum complex.

Ackley Park miniature train

Ackley Park. Route 66 and Pioneer Rd., Elk City

This 220 acre park has tennis courts, mini golf, baseball fields, softball field a playground and picnic areas. Admission is free. Open daily from 6 AM to 10 PM. There are two key attractions:

Wooden Carousel

The all-wood carousel has 36 hand-carved horses and 2 chariots. A delightful place for the young ones.

The Miniature Train

For children and adults, at 50 cents the train ride.

Details (580) 225-3230

Tours & Itineraries

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit, to the east, the nearby towns of Canute, Foss (almost a ghost town), Clinton, Weatherford, Hydro. To the west is Texola, Erick and Sayre

The Old alignment of Route 66 near Elk City

We begin the Elk City segment at the western tip of the Canute Segment of Route 66: (West of I-40 exit 41)

From modern I-40's north Frontage Road at Exit 41, old (1926-1985) Route 66 followed a westerly alignment along what is now Bus. 40. (along its westbound lanes until it was upgraded to 4 lanes in the late 1950s). The road took a left along Van Buren and then a right along 3rd Street, crossing Elk Creek until Washington at this point, the 1926-1929 alignment took a left towards the south. The 1929-1985 alignment kept west along 3rd.

1926-1928 Alignment

Route 66 headed south along Washington, then a right along 7th St. and finally a left onto S. Randall Ave. This was the old Postal Route towards Sayre. In those days the reservoir south of town (Lake Elk Cit) did not exist so the road just headed all the way south until reaching E 1160 Rd. where it took a right.

It followed this road until N County Rd. 1960 where it turned left until E 1170 Rd. where it took a right again (now this ends in a dead end before reaching OK-34).

It kept west along E 1170 Rd. through the town of Doxey, crossed the tracks and headed south along BK 24 until BK W where it turned right and headed all the way into Sayre (now it is cut so you must detour along OK-152 - See the Map of the alignment Erick to Sayre).

It headed westwards towards Sayre along Benton Blvd. taking a left southwards into town along 4th Street into the downtown area.

This road was not paved.

1929-1985 Alignment

Route 66 kept west along 3rd street. The original road was paved in Portland concrete through Elk City in 1931 -32, and from there to Sayre it was paved in asphalt over a concrete base in 1929.

It followed modern Bus. 40 (along the westbound lanes), then a 2-lane road, curved to the SW and continued after what today is Exit 32 of I-40. This segment out of Elk City was upgraded to 4-lanes in 1961 by adding eastbound lanes to the old road.

Timber Creek Bridge

The road followed what is now the North Frontage Road till reaching the modern crossover at BK25, where it headed sharply south to cross Timber Creek on a Truss Bridge (built in 1928), then it headed north again to its original alignment. See a Photo of the Bridge above.

The road entered Sayre along modern NE Hwy 66 and turned south along 4th St.

In 1958 the old road was upgraded to a 4-lane highway. Later in 1966 I-40 was completed towards Sayre. The old Route 66 remained as the I-40 service road. Route 66 was decertified in 1985, becoming Bus. 40.

This Map shows 1929-85 alignment of Route 66.

Parks and Outdoors

Close to Elk City there are some interesting outdoor areas and Parks: Foss State Park, 20 miles to the NE and Washita National Wildlife Refuge 33 miles north of Elk City.

To the northwest of Elk City is the Black Kettle National Grassland.

Sources

Linda D. Wilson, Elk City. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org

Elk City's website www.elkcity.com

Postcard from the James R. Powell Route 66 Collection, Lake County Discovery Museum under Fair Use.

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