80 Fun & Interesting Facts About Oklahoma, USA

While Oklahoma may be known for some controversial things (think land runs, the Oklahoma Bombing, and Tiger King), there’s a lot more you probably don’t know about the “Sooner State”.

Prepare to find out with these fascinating and fun facts about Oklahoma State, USA!

General Oklahoma Facts

  • The eastern part of Oklahoma is also considered part of the Upland South, an area north of the Deep South and defined by higher elevation and a unique history and culture.
  • Oklahoma is bordered to the north by Kansas, northeast by Missouri, east by Arkansas, south and west by Texas, west by New Mexico, and northwest by Colorado.
  • Most of the state lies in the Great Plains, Cross Timbers, and Interior Highlands regions.
  • Oklahoma has a total land area of 69,898 mi² (181,038 km²), the 20th largest in the country, putting it between North Dakota and Missouri in terms of size.
  • Oklahoma is almost exactly the same size as Cambodia, or more than twice the size of Ireland.
  • Oklahoma’s population is 4 million people, making it the 28th most populous state in the US.
  • Oklahoma is home to the country’s 2nd largest Native American population, 523,000, or 13% of its people. Only California has a higher total number of indigenous people, and only Alaska has a higher percentage of them.
An old postage stamp with the names of the 5 tribes of Oklahoma on it
Stamp honoring the Five Tribes of Oklahoma
  • 39 Native American tribes call Oklahoma home. Most of Oklahoma was once part of a vast area called Indian Territory, consisting of the lands of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes. In 2020, a judge ruled that around half of the state belongs to these five nations.
  • The state capital and the largest city of Oklahoma is Oklahoma City. With 680,000 (metropolitan 1.4 million) people, it is the 22nd largest city in the United States. In terms of physical size, it is the 2nd largest capital city in the US after Juneau, Alaska.
  • The state’s second largest city is Tulsa, which is the 47th largest city in the United States, with a population of 413,000 (metropolitan 1 million). It was for a long time called the “Oil Capital of the World.”
  • Two thirds of people in Oklahoma live in Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas.
  • Residents of the state are known as Oklahomans, or colloquially as Okies or Sooners.
A canal in Oklahoma City in the evening, with colorful lights
Bricktown Canal in Oklahoma City
  • The state’s name comes from the Choctaw word for “red people”, which is derived from the words “okla“, meaning people, and “humma“, meaning red.
  • Oklahoma’s land runs (when large areas of land were suddenly opened up to settlers, with the largest being in 1899) brought homesteaders from France, England, Canada, Japan and China. The state’s population thus originates from a wide variety of ethnicities and geographies.
  • The state is nicknamed “The Sooner State” after settlers who arrived sooner than they were supposed to.
  • OK is the abbreviation for Oklahoma.
  • The state motto of Oklahoma is “Labor Omnia Vincit“, which is Latin for “Labor Conquers All Things”.
The Oklahoma state flag
The state flag of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma even has an official state meal, which consists of sausage and gravy, chicken-fried steak, barbecue pork, grits, fried okra, squash, corn, black-eyed peas, biscuits, and pecan pie.
  • The Oklahoma state flag features the traditional Osage Nation shield in the center, consisting of buffalo skin, ceremonial pipe and an olive branch, representing the state’s Native and European inhabitants. The six golden brown crosses are Native American symbols for stars, and there are seven eagle feathers on the bottom. The blue background symbolizes loyalty and devotion.

Random Interesting Facts About Oklahoma 

  • The only county in the nation to border counties in five different states is Oklahoma’s Cimarron County. The county borders counties in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico.
  • Oklahoma is the nation’s 3rd most obese state, with 36.5% of adults being obese. It is surpassed only by West Virginia and Mississippi.
  • Several studies (source, source) have ranked Oklahoma as one of the worst states in the country to raise a child.
The Oklahoma Memorial gate reflecting in a pool of water
The Oklahoma City National Memorial for the victims of the Oklahoma Bombing
  • The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum are dedicated to the victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma Bombing, the largest act of domestic terrorism in the United States. They stand on the site of the former building that was bombed.
  • Oklahoma’s state Capitol is the only one that has an oil well directly below it.
  • There are no national parks in Oklahoma. There are 38 state parks protecting 0.13% of the land, the 4th lowest percentage of protected land in any state.
Some colorful crystals on a cave wall at Alabaster Caverns Oklahoma
Selenite gypsum crystals on the wall of Alabaster Caverns
  • Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma, at 4,973 ft (1516 m), while the lowest point in Oklahoma is 287 ft (87,48 m) in the southeastern corner of the state where Little River flows into Arkansas.
  • Oklahoma has a town called Canadian and a county called Canadian. The former isn’t in the latter, and neither are populated with people from Canada. Both are named after the Canadian River, the longest tributary of the Arkansas River. The reasons for originally choosing this name for the river are unclear and debated.
A bridge with a sign that says 66 marking Route 66 in Tulsa Oklahoma
Route 66 in Tulsa
  • Approximately 24% of Oklahoma is covered in forest. The Ouachita National Forest, shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas, spans nearly 2 million acres.
  • Oklahoma has the largest number of human-made lakes of any states, with more than 200 of them.
  • The all-time highest temperature to be recorded in Oklahoma was 120°F (48.9°C) in Poteau on August 10, 1936, while the lowest was -31°F (-35°C) in Nowata on February 10, 2011.
  • Dinosaur fossils are found in two places in Oklahoma: the Oklahoma Panhandle and Atoka county. The latter has a dinosaur named after it, Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, which was one of the largest predators ever found in North America. It is showcased at the Museum of the Red River.
  • There is an ancient creature named after the state: the Oklahoma Trilobite, which dates to almost 200 millions years before the dinosaurs first evolved.
  • Reptiles that live in the state today include American alligators, snapping turtles, and copperhead snakes.
Two models of ancient Oklahoma trilobites
The ancient Oklahoma Trilobite
  • Oklahoma has a booming aerospace industry, generating over $11 billion per year. A good place to learn about it is the Science Museum Oklahoma.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma has the world’s largest airline maintenance facility. It is also the engineering headquarters for American Airlines.
  • Oklahoma is the only state in the US that produces iodine and the country’s largest gypsum producer. It is also one of only four states in the nation that produces helium.
  • The state is also one of the country’s top-5 beef, wheat, and pecan producers.
A row of pecan trees at an orchard in Oklahoma
A pecan orchard in Oklahoma
  • The owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma, Sylvan Goldman, invented shopping carts in 1937 as an idea for getting customers to buy more.
  • Oklahoma City was also home to the world’s first parking meter, the Park-O-Meter #1, installed in 1935.
  • Oklahoma native Gordon Matthews invented voicemail in the early 1970s after he got fed up with playing telephone tag.
  • Some of the most famous actresses and actors from Oklahoma are Brad Pitt, Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil), Lexi Ainsworth, Joe Exotic, and actor-director Ron Howard
  • Some of Oklahoma’s most well-known athletes include NFL player Brian Bosworth, wrestlers Jerry and Jack Brisco, UFC fighter Mikey Burnett, and five-time Olympic champion Nadia Comăneci.
Profile shots of three famous people from Oklahoma
Famous Oklahomans Brad Pitt, Dr. Phil, and Joe Exotic
  • Many astronauts came from Oklahoma, including Gordan Cooper, Owen K. Garriot, John Herrington, Shannon Lucid, William R. Pogue, and Thomas Stafford.
  • John Berryman, William Bernhardt, S.E Hinton, Nicole Jordan, and Wilson Rawls are among some of the state’s most famous poets, authors, and novelists.
  • Oklahoma!, a romantic cowboy musical set in Claremore, northeastern Oklahoma, ran on Broadway for 2212 performances, more than any other at the time, and winning the creators a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.
  • Sonic Drive-In, which operates over 3500 locations across the US and is famous for its carhops on rollerskates, was founded in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and is now headquartered in Oklahoma City.  
Car stalls at Sonic Drive-In
Sonic Drive-In originated in Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma is one of the only states that allows death by firing squad (the others are Utah, South Carolina, and Mississippi). It is only rarely done, though.
  • Oklahoma has some strange old laws that will really make you wonder what they were thinking. For instance, you’re breaking the law if you share hamburgers. Wearing boots to bed and using foul language is also technically against the law.
  • Other weird laws include ones prohibiting having tissues in the back of your car, eavesdropping, speaking loudly in church, and reading a comic book while operating a motor vehicle.

Historical Facts About Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma was near the equator during the Triassic Period, when it was very hot and dry.
  • After the last Ice Age, ancestors of today’s Wichita, Tonkawa, and Caddo tribes moved into the area.
  • From the 1400s to 1800s, ancient peoples built earth mounds at the Spiro Mounds site in eastern Oklahoma.
Grass covered mounds in Oklahoma
Spiro Mounds
  • Francisco Vasquez de Coronado of Spain was the first European to explore the Oklahoma region in 1541.
  • In 1719, explorer Jean-Baptiste de la Harpe came upon the Oklahoma region and claimed it for France.
  • The first non-Native American settlement was established in Oklahoma in 1802.
  • In 1803, most of Oklahoma was acquired by the US in the Louisiana Purchase from France.
  • Oklahoma became part of the Arkansas Territory in 1819.
  • The first fort to be established in Oklahoma was Fort Gibson in 1824.
Two native americans dressed in ritual attire in a black and white photo
Cheyenne sun dancers in Oklahoma
  • In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress. Tens of thousands of Native Americans were forcibly relocated from the southeast to the Oklahoma area between 1835 and 1838, a journey that has been named the “Trail of Tears”.
  • In 1866, Oklahoma abolished slavery.
  • With the Dawes Act of 1887, Indian lands were divided for private ownership, and railroad companies acquired nearly half of all native lands.
  • Much of the state was opened up to homesteaders in 1889 with a series of major land runs.
  • In 1897, the first oil well was drilled in the state.
Drawing of Fort Reno Oklahoma town in 1891
Fort Reno circa 1891
  • Representatives of the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw, Cherokee and Creek) made attempts to become a separate Native American state called “Oklahoma”, and later in 1905 “Sequoyah”. Although largely supported by voters, the request for statehood was denied by Congress.
  • On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state to join the Union after the Native American and Oklahoma territories were combined to form the state.
  • The state’s capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City in 1910.
  • In 1935, a guard was murdered at an Oklahoma prison and 31 prisoners escaped.
  • The alcohol prohibition was repealed in Oklahoma in 1959.
Exterior of the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City in the evening
The Oklahoma State Capitol
  • On June 8 1974, Oklahoma City was struck by five different tornadoes during the course of one day.
  • On December 14, 1985, the first woman to lead a major Native American tribe took office as principal chief of Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation. Her name was Wilma Mankiller.
  • In 1990, Oklahoma became the first state to put a limit on the terms of legislators.
  • That same year, Oklahoma became the state with the largest population of Native Americans, at 252,420 people (it is now 2nd).
  • The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up by a terrorist bomb in 1995, known as the Oklahoma Bombing. The result was 168 deaths and hundreds more injured.
The word caring carved into a stone wall at Oklahoma City National Memorial
“Caring” engraved at the Oklahoma City National Memorial
  • In 1997, Timothy McVeigh was convicted on 11 counts and sentenced to death for the 1995 bombing. In June 2001, he was executed by lethal injection.
  • In 2016, Jeff Lower purchased the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park from Joe Exotic. When exotic went to jail in 2020, and as COVID started, Lowe moved it to a new location, called Tiger King Park. It was raided by police and closed in May 2021.