CACHE — Starting Friday, hikers in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will have to be off the trails by 10 a.m.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is experiencing extreme heat, with multiple heat-related search and rescues occurring recently, according to a press release. These weather conditions, coupled with the rocky and rugged terrain of the refuge, pose safety hazards for visitors and for fefuge and other emergency response personnel called upon for search and rescue operations during the extreme heat.
To reduce potential safety hazards associated with heat related illnesses or injuries, the Refuge is implementing the following Emergency Closure Order to restrict hiking during extreme temperatures effective Friday until removed.
•Hiking is permitted from sunrise until 10 a.m. ONLY.
•Hikers should plan their hike to start early enough to exit the trail by 10 a.m. All visitors must be off the trails and the Mt. Scott Roadway no later than 10 a.m.
Refuge roads will remain open to motorized vehicles and bicycles for wildlife observation and photography. Doris Campground, fishing, and picnicking will remain open. The Visitor Center located near the intersection of Oklahoma 49 and Oklahoma 115 is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and can provide directions and alternative suggestions for visitors.
A few safety tips to remember — bring plenty of water, wear loose clothing that is light in color and a cap or hat, and limit the amount of time you spend outdoors in extreme temperatures.
Information about the Emergency Closure Order on hiking can be found on the Refuge website at www.fws.gov/refuge/wichita_mountains or by contacting the Visitor Center at 580-429-2197