My beloved ODOT county maps


I was going to include this in the roundup post below, but this deserved its own entry.

I first came across the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) county highway maps back in the mid-'70s, when I would take the MTTA bus downtown from school on Wednesday afternoons and hang out at Central Library until Dad got off work. I could spend hours poring over maps, and became particularly fascinated with the ODOT county maps, which showed rural roads and locations of homes, businesses, farms, cemetaries, and schools outside the city limits. The maps indicated which roads were dirt, which were gravel, and which were paved. City limits and fence lines were shown, along with the odd exclaves -- places like the Tulsa Fairgrounds which are in the city but outside the city limits.

The ODOT map of Wagoner County included, as an inset, the first street map I had ever seen of my neighborhood, Rolling Hills, at the time an unincorporated subdivision in the northwest corner of the county. (We lived there from 1969 to 1978.) Most commercial city maps of the time didn't bother to show Tulsa beyond "Tulsa proper" (the pre-1966 boundaries), but even if a map did go out all the way to the new city limit, it stopped abruptly at 193rd East Avenue. So it was interesting to see, at last, how my mental map of the neighborhood, sketched by years of walking to church, riding my bike to the UtoteM and the In-N-Out (convenience stores), and visiting friends, matched up to the real distances and proportions shown by the map.

What really caught my imagination were the names and boundaries of townships -- county subdivisions that, as far as I am aware, have had no official function since the 1910s. These townships sometimes matched up to the Northwest Ordinance 36-square-mile townships, but mostly didn't. Tulsa County had Boles, Frye, Willow Springs, Lynn Lane, Wekiwa, Red Fork, Dawson, plus townships that bore the same names as still-extant towns: Collinsville, Owasso, Skiatook, Jenks, Glenpool, and Bixby. I had the idea that the old township boundaries could be put to use for city government. Tulsa (then governed by a board of city commissioners elected at-large) could have boroughs, just like New York City, using the old township boundaries to create some geographical element to city government.

When I was in college, my roommate had posters of the Landers twins and Morgan Fairchild next to his loft bed. I ordered some county maps from ODOT, used colored pencils to highlight the township boundaries, and put up Wagoner, Rogers, and Tulsa County on my side of the room. I wasn't making a statement. I just liked looking at the maps (although I'm sure not as much as he -- or I -- liked looking at the Landers twins).

After college, newly empowered with my own car, I bought an atlas collecting all 77 county maps in a single book: The Oklahoma Wildlife Federation's County Maps and Outdoor Guide to Oklahoma. The counties were each squeezed down to a single page, two at most, which made the maps hard to read at times, but it still was a helpful companion on my Saturday rambles around the state. I'd look for paved routes that were off the state numbered highway system: a shortcut from Skiatook Lake to Prue, Kenwood Road in Mayes and Delaware Counties, the road from Oaks to Rocky Ford to Moodys in Cherokee County, Jones and Hogback Roads in Oklahoma County. The atlas was also handy for spotting old highway alignments, like old US 75 as it winds through Vera, Ramona, and Ochelata, another segment of old 75 from Beggs to Preston to Okmulgee, and US 62 through Headrick, Snyder, Indiahoma, and Cache -- places where a beeline connecting cities 50 miles apart replaced the twists and turns that connected one little town to its neighbor.

Some years later, Shearer Publishing incorporated data from these ODOT county maps with topographical data to produce The Roads of Oklahoma, a full-color atlas with a consistent scale throughout.

So it was nice to see that ODOT now has the full set of county maps online, along with the current official state highway map and other publications.

I learned about these online maps from a fascinating new blog about our great state: And I learned about from Mike of Okiedoke's latest Okie roundup.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 21, 2005 12:27 AM.

Gleanings from Oklahoma blogs: Moon maps, missed train, Little Poison was the previous entry in this blog.

County supervisor: Eminent domain doesn't promote economic development is the next entry in this blog.

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