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Watonga, Oklahoma

Coordinates: 35°50′58″N 98°25′01″W / 35.84944°N 98.41694°W / 35.84944; -98.41694
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Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 35°50′58″N 98°25′01″W / 35.84944°N 98.41694°W / 35.84944; -98.41694
CountryUnited States
 • TypeAldermanic
 • Total3.79 sq mi (9.80 km2)
 • Land3.77 sq mi (9.76 km2)
 • Water0.02 sq mi (0.04 km2)
Elevation1,522 ft (464 m)
 • Total2,690
 • Density713.72/sq mi (275.57/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code580
FIPS code40-78950[3]
GNIS feature ID2412193[2]

Watonga is a city in Blaine County, Oklahoma. It is 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The population was 2,690 as of the 2020 United States census.[4] It is the county seat of Blaine County.[5]



Watonga is located on former Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation lands that were allotted to individual tribal members and the excess opened to white settlers in the Land Run of 1892. Watonga is named after Arapaho Chief Watonga, whose name means "Black Coyote".[6]

The town began as a tent city on April 19, 1892. A post office opened in Watonga during the same year. [a] However, the first railroad line through Watonga was not built until 1901–02, when the Enid and Anadarko Railway (later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) constructed a 60 miles (97 km) rail line from Guthrie.[6]



According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.6 km2), of which 0.012 square miles (0.03 km2), or 0.28%, is water.[7]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[8]

As of the 2000 census,[3] there were 4,658 people, 1,273 households, and 858 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,703.1 inhabitants per square mile (657.6/km2). There were 1,507 housing units at an average density of 551.0 units per square mile (212.7 units/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.19% White, 15.33% African American, 8.24% Native American, 1.55% Asian, 2.02% Pacific Islander, 4.89% from other races, and 6.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.91% of the population.

There were 1,273 households, out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.3% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.5% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 36.7% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 169.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 191.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,208, and the median income for a family was $31,391. Males had a median income of $23,056 versus $16,146 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,567. About 12.4% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.

According to one report, Watonga's 42.9% reduction in population from 2010 to 2017 makes it the fastest shrinking place in Oklahoma.[9]



Watonga's economy has largely been based on agriculture since statehood. In the early days, local farmers primarily were producers of wheat. The dairy industry grew in western Oklahoma and led to the opening of the Watonga Cheese Factory in 1941. It was one of the state's five active dairy product plants in 2004.[10] The plant subsequently closed in 2007.[11]

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores began with a single leased gas station in Watonga in the mid-1960s. Love's is now in 41 states, is approaching 500 travel centers, and employs 25,000 nationwide.[12]

The city hosted the Diamondback Correctional Facility, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America from 1998,[13] and the prison grew to become the town's largest employer.[14] But the prison, housing Arizona inmates, experienced a riot in May 2004, and the contract to utilize the facility was not renewed, resulting in the prison closing in May 2010.[13][14] This left 300 prison workers jobless or transferred elsewhere.[14] The prison was still vacant as of March 2017.[15]

The town Walmart closed in 2016.[16]



Watonga has an aldermanic form of government.[6]

Arts and culture


The city hosts an annual Watonga Cheese Festival in October. The festival was formed in 1976 by the Watonga Chamber of Commerce because the town had the only cheese factory in Oklahoma at the time.[11] The festival has continued even after the closing of the factory in 2007.[11] In 2013, a wine competition was added to the festival.[17]

The town newspaper, the Watonga Republican, has been in publication since 1892.[18]

Watonga has the T.B. Ferguson Home Museum, which consists not only of the 1901 Victorian-style house of publisher T.B. Ferguson, but also various artifacts of the era.[19]

Notable people


Parks and recreation


Roman Nose State Park, which opened in 1937 and was one of the state's seven original state parks, is seven miles north of Watonga,[21] off State Highway 8 and 8a.[22] It includes two lakes,[23] the smaller being Lake Boecher, and the larger the 55-surface-acre Lake Watonga.[24] The park includes hiking trails, guided horseback rides and hayrides to a historic natural-rock swimming pool, miniature golf, and an 18-hole par-70 golf course.[23] For lodging, the park has Roman Nose Lodge, built in 1956 and renovated in 2010, along with more than 90 campsites, almost equally split between RV and tent sites.[23]

Historic sites


Ferguson Chapel was a Presbyterian Church, dedicated in 1903 and continued in use until 1972.[25] In 1992, the building was restored by town volunteers, and is used as an event center.[25]

Seven of 17 NHRP-listed sites in Blaine County are located in Watonga, including the Blaine County Courthouse, the Noble Hotel, and the United States Post Office Watonga.



Watonga connects with U.S. Route 270, State Highway 3, State Highway 8, and State Highway 51a.[22]

Watonga is served by Watonga Regional Airport.

Commercial air transportation is available at Will Rogers World Airport, about 68 miles to the southeast.[26]

Rail freight carriage pertaining to grain, fertilizer, and other agriculture-related products is provided by AT&L Railroad, which runs from Watonga to Geary to El Reno, Oklahoma, with overhead trackage rights on the Union Pacific from El Reno to Oklahoma City.[27]


  1. ^ The first postmaster was Thompson Benton Ferguson, who served in this position until 1896. He then became the editor-publisher of the Watonga Republican newspaper until 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to be the sixth governor of Oklahoma Territory from 1906 through 1907. Ferguson then returned to his home in Watonga, where he lived for the rest of his life.


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Watonga, Oklahoma
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "Watonga (city), Oklahoma". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 16, 2024.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Crawford, Terri. "Watonga," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  7. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Watonga city, Oklahoma". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  8. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  9. ^ "Fastest Shrinking Places in Every State". Samuel Stebbins, 247wallst.com, July 17, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  10. ^ Spicer, Leon J. "Dairy Industry," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Bates, Richenda Davis. "Watonga Cheese Festival," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "Capitalism no good? Tell that to Pawhuska". The Oklahoman, July 28, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  13. ^ a b After losing possible federal contract, Watonga hopes to find a use for Diamondback Correctional Facility, Enid News and Eagle, Cass Rains, June 14, 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c "Private prison in Watonga closes". John Estus, NewsOK.com (posted on Tulsa World website), May 28, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  15. ^ "Oklahoma Watch: Private prison company seeks to buy more halfway houses, shut down Tulsa facilities". Clifton Adcock, Oklahoma Watch, Tulsa World, March 27, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  16. ^ "Update: Wal-Mart plans to shutter 269 stores, six in Oklahoma". Anne D’Innocenzio, Associated Press (posted on Tulsa World website), January 15, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  17. ^ "History of Cheese & Watonga," Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival, Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  18. ^ "Homepage". Watonga Republican. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  19. ^ "T.B. Ferguson Home Museum". Friends of T.B. Ferguson Home Museum. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  20. ^ "From Donald Duck to Tom and Jerry, this duck tale started in Oklahoma". Jimmie Tramel, Tulsa World, February 2, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  21. ^ "Roman Nose State Park RV & Campground Guide". RVshare. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Watonga, Oklahoma". Mapquest. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "Roman Nose State Park in Watonga, Oklahoma". USA Today Travel Tips. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  24. ^ "Lake Watonga". TravelOK.com. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  25. ^ a b "(Former) Ferguson Chapel Presbyterian Church - Watonga, OK". Waymarking. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  26. ^ "Watonga, Oklahoma to Will Rogers World Airport". Google Maps. Retrieved March 18, 2024.
  27. ^ "AT&L Railroad Company, Inc. ATLT #514". Union Pacific. Retrieved August 7, 2021.