Seeking Out a Sapphire Cetacean - A Visit to the Blue Whale of Catoosa
One of the coolest things about living in Oklahoma is that I am in a "Route 66 State" and I now have (somewhat) easier access to what is probably the ultimate piece of Americana.
I was especially tickled to learn that the apartment is close (20 Minutes!) to one of its most famous landmarks, the Blue Whale of Catoosa.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa was built back in the early 1970s by Hugh Davis as an anniversary present for his wife Zelta, who loved whales and collected figures of them. The pond surrounding the whale was spring-fed and the whole affair was initially intended to be a private family swimming hole.
Instead, it drew crowds, both local and Route 66 travelers (I suspect it was the giant blue whale). Rather than shutting it down, or building a fence, Mr. Davis turned it into a commercial venture and brought in sand, lifeguards, and picnic tables. During its heyday, the site also had an A.R.K. (Animal Reptile Kingdom) and had an artist's gallery that featured the paintings, beadwork, leatherwork, and jewelry of the talented Native Pueblo artist Chief Wolf Robe Hunt (who was also Zelta's brother and had once owned the trading post directly across the street.
Chief Wolf Robe Hunt passed away in 1977, although you can still find some of his pieces today.
However, in 1988 the grounds became too much for the aging couple to manage and they were closed to the public. Mr. Davis died in 1990 and Zelta in 2001.
The site was left to the mercy of the elements and fell into disrepair, until 2010, when the residents of Catoosa and the local Hampton Inn began a fundraising project to save the whale and with the work of many volunteers, it has been restored. The picnic grounds are also open, although swimming is no longer allowed.
It is definitely a fun piece of Route 66 kitsch and I'm glad I stopped by to see it. Ziggy got a kick out of it as well.
xoxo a.d. elliott
Take the Back Roads