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Loop 2 – Playa Lake Loop

Within the well-mowed-lawn look of the shortgrass prairie are found playa lakes, the most important wetlands you’ve never heard about.  Playa lakes, (shallow, usually round basins with clay floors) lie in the lowest points of watersheds and hold water only after rainfall or runoff from the surrounding prairie.  Playas’ natural wet-dry cycles support a diverse plant community as well as specialized plankton and aquatic insects.  These high levels of productivity make playas vital wintering and stop over places for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds such as long-billed curlews, greater yellowlegs, black-necked stilts, and American avocets.  When you travel the playa lake loop you are experiencing a wetland-type incredibly unique- 95% of the world’s playa lakes lie on the western Great Plains!  Prairie dog towns also located within this loop support a unique set of wildlife species including burrowing owls, badgers, swift fox, and ferruginous hawks.  On the southern edge of the loop is a captivating view from the dam of Optima Lake and the wildlife using this very shallow lake.  Learn more about playas at www.pljv.org.

Guymon Convention and Tourism Bureau:  580.338.5838, www.guymonok.org,  Address: 802 NE 6th Street, Guymon. Directions:  West of AutoZone on Hwy 54.


Beaver Dunes Park (2-14) 580.625.3373, www.travelok.com Directions:  Located in the town of Beaver.  From intersection of West 3rd Street and US Hwy270/ SH 23 in Beaver, go north on US Hwy 270 for 1.4 miles to state park.


Lodging: Guymon: (9) motels, www.guymoncofc.org, 580.338.5838; (2) RV parks; (1) B&B, The Willows Inn, 580.338.1303.  Hooker: Cole Family Inn 580.652.2951, (2) lodges - www.pheasantridgehunting.com, 866.486.8637; The Bunk House, todd@ptsi.net, 580.778.3697. Beaver: Hillcrest Motel (580.625.4561; Beaver Motel (580.625.4543) Camping & RV Hookups: Beaver Dunes Park (contact info above).


Special Note: 

As rainfall events occur infrequently in this area, please contact the Optima Wildlife Management Area biologist at 806.339.5175 to find out if playas are holding water.


One-Day Outings/ Birding Routes:  Pack a picnic lunch or enjoy lunch at any of the local cafes.


Playa Lake Route This route is approximately 75 miles long and begins on Hwy 136 north out of Guymon.  Continue north to County Road 7 and drive east (approximately 9 miles) to the first stop, McKinley Playa (2-2). Head east into Hooker to the next stop south of Hooker on Hwy 94, Balzar Playa (2-3).  Continue south to Hwy 412.  Go east (left) on Hwy 412 to Road 49 east of the town of Hardesty and turn north (left) to visit Optima Lake (2-6) for an overview of the “lake”.  Off the Beaten Trail:  Travel east of Hooker ~ 11 miles to county road (NS57).  Travel south 1 mile, turn east and follow signs to the Lunceford Playa (2-9).  Travel east 1.3 miles to Flynt Playa (2-10).  Go left on NS59 road and view the prairie dog town beside Hwy 64.  Travel west on Hwy 64 to road (NS58).  Go north 4 miles then turn west one mile to the Old Railroad Crossing (2-11).  Walk the old railroad right-of-way overlooking the Laverrase Playa.


Optima Lake (2-6) Go east (left) on Hwy 412 to Road 49 east of the town of Hardesty and turn north (left).  Low-water levels have kept this impoundment from becoming a lake but is instead an outstanding wetland and very important for migrating shorebirds and wintering waterfowl.  The road and parking areas along the Optima Lake (2-6) provide an excellent overview of this wetland.  Return to Hwy 412 and travel east to County Road 53.  Turn north and travel to Road T (~7 miles).  Turn west and follow to County Road 49, follow south into Optima WMA (2-4).  This area covers over 8,000 acres of sagebrush, buffalo grass, sand plum thickets, mixed-grass prairies and cottonwood trees.  The many gravel roads within the WMA will take the visitor to different access points. Caution:  After a rain these roads can be difficult to drive. Turn left onto Hwy 94 to visit Optima NWR (2-5) which traverses through bottomland hardwoods and prairie grasslands.  Visit Shultz WMA (2-7) by following Road 47, 5 miles south of Hwy 412.  This is a walk-in only WMA which offers creek-side habitat, mixed-grass and shortgrass prairies, and sandplum thickets.

Please Note:  there are no restrooms on Optima Lake.


Sunset Lake & Game Reserve (2-1) Pack a picnic and spend the day relaxing at this exceptional park, maintained by the city of Guymon.  Named for its view of beautiful sunsets, the 32-acre lake offers a 1 mile concrete walking trail around the lake through a diversity of trees and shrubs which provide an oasis for songbirds.  Fishing in winter for trout and year-round for catfish is exceptional and fishing licenses can be purchased at City Hall and other locations in Guymon (580.338.5838).  Just north of the Lake across the dam is the Wild Game Reserve.  Drive around the enclosure around the Reserve to view bison, prairie dogs, elk and exotic wildlife.


Beaver Dunes Park (2-14):  Offers a variety of family recreational activities including a 1-mile interpretive hike through the dunes, horseshoes, volleyball, picnicking areas and of course there is the Off-Road Vehicle dune area for motorcycles, dune buggies, ATV’s and 4 x 4’s.  Park Permit Required.  Contact Information above.


Beaver River Wildlife Management Area (2-15):  With a high-clearance vehicle a traveler can truly experience the sagebrush and shortgrass prairie, the classic western river bottom and the shrubby sand dunes within this 17,000 acre area.  For travelers without a high-clearance vehicle, drive the main north-south area road (11 miles west of Beaver, south side) through this amazing wildlife area.  Note:  No Public Restrooms.



Guest Ranches:

Pheasant Ridge (2-8) is a 2000-acre working farm and ranch which will transport a visitor back to the old west setting including bison.  This premier hunting lodge offers spectacular lodging (accommodates 18) and good food along with wildlife-watching and a quality hunting experience. Contact: 866.486.8637, www.pheasantridgehunting.com


Flynt Farms Upland Hunting (2-12) is 3,400 acres of diverse terrain of grain fields, both irrigated and dry land, CRP grassland, tree rows, playa bottoms, and more than 10 years of wildlife shrub and tree plantings.  This farm offers excellent wildlife watching opportunities and hunting experiences.  Contact: 580.778.3556, http://www.flyntfarms.com/


High Plains Hunting and The Bunkhouse (2-13) is a working farm located in the middle of agricultural fields, CRP grassland, and shortgrass prairie.  The lodge offers lodging (sleeps 13) with complete amenities, walking trails, camping and pheasant hunting opportunities.  Contact:  580.778.3697.


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updated June 19, 2012 09:32 AM