Bucket List Road: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan

5 minutes
After a decade at Oklahoma Today, Editor-in-chief Nathan Gunter is filling in the spots he's missed with his series, Bucket List Road.

Sometimes, you enjoy a place so much that it makes you impossibly late for the next place you’re supposed to be. So it was when Karlie Ybarra and I visited the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, one stop on a road trip that was supposed to end with us helping our friend and coworker Lori Duckworth with a shoot in Clinton.

Alas, Lori, we are sorry, but the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center was just too fun.

What makes this place fun enough to ditch a beloved friend and colleague, you might ask? Let’s start where the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center does: With a delightful multimedia presentation about the museum’s eponymous trail and life during the post-Civil-War nineteenth century, told through film, lighting, scent, and talking android:

When I say multimedia, I mean it: During that presentation, it rains, the wind blows, and you can smell the scents of the prairie wafting through the place. Now that you’ve been thrown into the deep end of the Chisholm Trail pool, it’s time to ask yourself the question that’s kept every one of us up at night at some point during our lives: Would I have been a good trail boss?

This interactive screen presents you with the problems and challenges that faced Chisholm Trail cattle drive cowboys every day and lets you decide how to handle it. Not to brag or anything, but Karlie and I were both Chisholm Trail Heritage Center Approved {trademark pending} to become official trail bosses, so: Watch out, cows of Oklahoma!

This is the magic of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, though: It’s not just a museum with displays where you wander through, point your eyeballs at an artifact and some words, then move along to the next artifact-plus-words combo. This place submerges you in the Wild West and the world of pre-statehood Oklahoma. There is that delightful staple of Wild West museums, the Mercantile:

Naturally, because it was one of the most important parts of any cattle drive, there is a chuckwagon, which is where I’d want to work if Karlie beat me to that sweet trail boss job:

There’s a delightful cast of characters we meet in mannequin form, and they tell us who was who out on the Trail:

Not to mention all the friendly (and not-so-friendly) fuzzies our cattle-driving cowboys might meet:

And a world-class art gallery featuring pieces by some truly incredible Oklahoma artists, including our friend and two-time Oklahoma Today cover artist J. Dylan Cavin:

The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center was so packed with incredible things to see, touch, smell, feel, and hear, it’s any wonder Karlie and I didn’t lose even more time than we did on our far-too-fun trip south. And with apologies to our friend Lori, I can’t even say I regret it—we could’ve been there twice as long and still not feel we’d experienced it all. There are two other major Chisholm Trail museums in Oklahoma—one’s in Kingfisher, and one’s in Enid—and between the three of them, visitors can learn a fascinating lot about what Indian Territory was like in the years between the Reconstruction and statehood. And who knows? Maybe you’ll go, take the trail boss test, and start thinking about a career change. That’s the wonder of travel: So many possibilities!

Written By
Nathan Gunter

A sixth-generation Oklahoman, Weatherford native, and Westmoore High School graduate, Nathan Gunter is the magazine's editor-in-chief. When he's not editor-in-chiefing, Nate enjoys live music, running, working out, gaming, cooking, and random road trips with no particular destination in mind. He holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma. He learned how to perform poetry from Maya Angelou; how to appreciate Italian art from Terisio Pignatti; comedy writing from Doug Marlette; how to make coconut cream pie from his great-grandma; and how not to approach farm dogs from trial and error. A seminary dropout, he lives just off Route 66 in Oklahoma City.

Nathan Gunter
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