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The Breaks

In the southwestern corner of Oklahoma is a rugged, dry land of gypsum hills and karst strewn with mesas and pitted with sinkholes leading into long, sinuous caves with walls beautifully scalloped by eons of flowing water. My parents introduced me to this wonderful area as a youngster when we lived in Sayre. On our first outing to The Breaks as a family we hiked across the broken expanse from the closest one lane dirt road to Haystack Mountain (in the upper lefthand corner of the aerial image of the region below) and climbed it.

We also made trips to explore Jester Caves in the Mangum Gypsum Hills nearby (just a short distance out of frame to the right above). Speleology of the region is pretty interesting and Jester Caves is the longest gypsum cave system in the United States.

I returned to The Breaks many times as a teenager and young adult to explore alone and occasionally with friends. In those days, the mesas were pristine, tracked up only by wildlife and cattle.

A few years ago I read that someone had opened the mesas up to recreational vehicles, advertising the area as an off-road park and charging a fee for people to drive their tricked out SUVs all over this once beautiful landscape formerly accessible only by foot and hoof. Now the steeply sloped sides and flat tops of the mesas are cut and scarred by deep, ugly tire tracks–a sad ruination of natural beauty just to make a damned dollar.

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