Not long after that adventure, I joined Jeri on a trip to Tahlequah and the Illinois River, to check out a riverbank restoration project. The drive to the northeast corner of the state offers a gorgeous view of a landscape that’s much different but just as beautiful as the Great Plains. We drove through the Cross Timbers and the Central Irregular Plains, two more of the many regions found in this ecologically diverse state. The Cross Timbers is a transitional area between Central Great Plains and the much more forested regions to the east. As we drove through, the change was clear as the scarce vegetation gave way to more hills and heavily wooded areas, with lots of trees, mostly bare from winter, but some still very green. We then passed into the Central Irregular Plains ecoregion, a north-south strip of prairie that separates the Cross Timbers from the heavily forested ecoregion which was our final destination, the Ozark Highlands.
Upon entering this ecoregion, the scenery became a bit rockier, with more hilly terrain covered by a majority of still-green trees. As we wound along one particular road, approaching the Illinois River, I remarked to Jeri that it reminded me of some of the mountainous country roads I’ve experienced while traveling other parts of the country. It’s another remarkable part of Oklahoma, an area I look forward to spending more time exploring on my own in the future. It was also a fantastic introduction to the strikingly beautiful Illinois River, which we got to visit on a picture-perfect weather day. Definitely something to add to the long list of places I want to get better acquainted with.
The natural diversity of this state is extraordinary and the chance to experience this kind of variety in nature is one of the many great things about living here. Check out more information on Oklahoma’s ecoregions at the links below and then explore them for yourself.