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Travel Bargain destination in Oklahoma

Catoosa Oklahoma 1970s Roadside Amusement Icon

Blue Whale in Oklahoma Route 66 photoRoute 66 is the famed collection of roadways tracing a path across the United States from the stockyards of Chicago to the sunny beach of Southern California. The original highways designated as U.S. Route 66 was established in 1926, made one of the most famous highways in America with the dustbowl migration of the 1930 and the see America car culture of the 1960s. Along the way, roadside attractions would spring up, filling Look Magazine pages with images of Americana kitch. The original two lane blacktops were replaced by Interstate Freeways, which roughly followed the old route 66, which itself often followed the routes of the railroads.
One of the most interesting remaining sections of the old 66 highways pass through Oklahoma, and in 1960s heyday a local entrepreneur, Bill Davis built a private amusement park to entertain families traveling down the road. His first attraction was a representation of Noah’s Arks for gathering and birthday parties, and an animal petting zoo and nature park. In 1970, Davis added the signature crowning touch of a swimming hole with a diving platform in the shape of a friendly playful Blue Whale, perhaps inspired by the not dissimilar characters in Walt Disney’s park at the far end the highway.

The Blue Whale alongside the Route 66 roadway built in 1970 is still one of the glorious iconic images of car culture of days gone by. The amusement complex fell into disrepair after the death of Bill Davis in 1988. The Blue Whale swimming incongruously in his pond in the middle of the plains of eastern Oklahoma in the little town of Catoosa near Tulsa suffered the ravages of time, wounded by the harpoons of neglect and vandalism. In 2002 the local Hampton Inn Hotel sponsored a renovation of the whale, the restrooms and the picnic grounds and the site is still maintained by the Davis and Belt families.

Blue Whale Jaw View  photoThe Blue Whale of Oklahoma has a fresh new coat of paint and its signature happy smile has returned. Swimming at the Blue Whale pond is no longer allowed, with the whale’s original purpose as a swimming and diving platform, now turned to essentially a photo op. One might be tempted to dive in the pond, but one look at the murky water while looks rather like a lost lagoon on Gilligan’s Island will be enough to dissuade the urge. Look for the decaying sunken boat launch which appears as if eaten by Anacondas or the lurking haunt of the alligators which once populated the old park’s Nature Acres animal center. You can fish in the pond, but its catch and release. Plans are in the works to revitalize the Ark, still on the site, but seems a ways off from its current condition.

Visiting the Route 66 Blue Whale

The Blue Whale and picnic area are free to visit, located on U.S. 66 between Tulsa and Claremore Oklahoma, off the Interstate 44. Other sites of interest nearby are the birthplace of Will Rogers and Will Rogers Memorial Museum (see Will Rogers Oklahoma), the Davis Arms Museum in Claremore (see Davis Gun Collection), Tulsa Zoo and Air and Space Museum, the Gilcrease Museum, and just down the road for a snack and souvenir stop is the Nut House.
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