Altus, a small city in southwestern Oklahoma, was founded in 1886 under the name Frazer. At that time, it was located almost three miles to the west of its present site. In 1891, after a disastrous flood, Frazer’s citizens relocated the town to higher ground and renamed it Altus, which is Latin for “high.” Although it’s best known as the home of Altus Air Force Base, which is an important training facility for the pilots and crew of multiengine military aircraft, the Altus area also offers a variety of cultural and natural attractions.
Museum of the Western Prairie
Located in downtown Altus next to the Kiwanis Ball Park, the Museum of the Western Prairie (okhistory.org/outreach/museums/westernprairie.html) educates visitors about the rich geological and cultural history of southwestern Oklahoma. Exhibits explain the prehistory of the region, the culture of its Native American tribes, the history of European settlement and the area’s current status as an agricultural, military and industrial center. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Morgan Doll Museum
The Morgan Doll Museum (no website; 909 E. Broadway St., Altus; 580-482-2387) is a private facility launched in 2005 by longtime doll collector Mary Morgan. The collection comprises thousands of rare and antique dolls, dollhouses and accessories dating from the 19th century to the present day. Highlights include a room-size, fully furnished recreation of Tara from “Gone With the Wind” and more than 50 Shirley Temple dolls. The museum is open Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Quartz Mountain Nature Park
Located about 20 minutes north of Altus in the Wichita Mountains, Quartz Mountain Nature Park (quartzmountain.org) stretches along the western shore of Lake Altus-Lugert, which is a popular regional destination for boating and fishing. The park features a resort lodge, a performing arts center, a nature center, interpretive trails, sand dunes and numerous primitive camping sites. It’s also home to Baldy Point, a forbidding 300-foot granite dome that attracts brave rock climbers from all over the country. Quartz Mountain Nature Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Great Plains State Park
Approximately 30 minutes northeast of Altus in the rugged granite foothills of the Wichita Mountains, Great Plains State Park (no website; 22487 E. 1566 Road; Mountain Park; 580-569-2032) offers visitors everything from rock climbing and rappelling to water skiing. The park has hiking and biking trails for all skill levels; it also includes the eastern shoreline of 6,400-acre Tom Steed Lake, which is famous for its crappie and walleye fishing. RV, camping and picnic sites are available, and pets are welcome. Great Plains State Park is open 24 hours a day, all year long. The park office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.