An Oklahoma Wonder

The Blue River is the largest stream originating in the Arbuckles. Its historical headwaters begin in the Hunton Anticline near Roff, Oklahoma, and are fed by springs from above Connerville to below and near Hwy 7 on ODWC property, which provide the base flow of the Blue River to its end at the Red River. It is one of only 42 free-flowing medium sized rivers in the U.S. and the only such river in Oklahoma (Benke 1990).

The Blue River watershed contains four stream types:

Arbuckle headwaters

Arbuckle medium-sized streams

Woodbine streams

Coastal Plains streams

Arbuckle Headwaters & Streams

The Blue River Arbuckle headwaters and medium-sized streams provide habitat for numerous spring-dependent species including the disjunct least darter, redspot chub and southern redbelly dace. These are steep bedrock-dominated streams with step-pool morphology.

At the lower end of the Arbuckle formation, on the granite outcropping, the stream becomes very steep with taller waterfalls and deep pools. This area is part of the Blue River WMA, which is managed for hunting, a bass and sunfish fishery in the summer, and a put-and-take trout fishery in the winter.

Camping and hiking opportunities are also available. The largest population of seaside alder is on the WMA, along the edges of the Blue River and forming islands.

Woodbine & Coastal Plains

The Woodbine and Coastal Plains reaches of the Blue River are in deeper soils and are much more incised than those on the Arbuckles. Channels are more trapezoidal in shape, with sandy substrates. These reaches exhibit a fish assemblage more indicative of coastal plains streams, and also host a population of the American eel (Anguilla rostrata), a catadromous fish.

Alnus maritima range map

Range map for seaside alder. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rare Seaside Alder

Seaside alder (Alnus maritima) is a rare tree found in south central Oklahoma along the Blue River. It grows on the edge of waterways and in monotypic stands on islands with canopies extending over the water to compete for sun light against taller trees (Schrader and Graves 2002).

Seaside alder grows on stable portions of the floodplains between bankfull and flood-prone elevations.

Unique Animal Species

Arbuckle streams contain many unique and disjunct species, including several disjunct Ozarkian species: the least darter (Etheostoma microperca), redspot chub (Nocomis asper) and southern redbelly dace (Phoxinus erythrogaster) and the ringed crayfish (Orconectes neglectus).

The least darter and redspot chub are dependent upon cool spring discharges, and this relationship is being studied in detail (see IFIM section of study below).

Orconectes neglectus

Blue River Recreation

Arbuckle streams are important from a recreational standpoint. Local residents and tourists use these rivers for leisure fishing, including bass, sunfish and suckers.

Trout has been introduced as a winter put-and-take fishery at the Blue River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), operated by the ODWC. The Blue River WMA is also a popular destination for hiking, camping and picnicking.

Go Deeper with Blue River Foundation