With a population too small to be listed on the official state map, and at least 40 miles from the next-largest town, Kenton – tucked away in the northwest corner of the panhandle – might seem to be a remote spot on Oklahoma’s high desert plain.
Nevertheless, the area beckons visitors for a variety of reasons. And for its handful of mostly life-long residents, the place is just fine, even with its smorgasbord of unpredictable weather.
For instance, it’s a place that offers a chance to see – really see – the nighttime sky. The area also regularly attracts birders, wildlife observers and those who want to hike their way up to Oklahoma’s highest point, the 4,973-foot Black Mesa, which offers some actual dinosaur tracks at its base.
And above all, in the words of more than one resident, the place is calm. Very calm.
“People say they can’t believe it’s so quiet,” says Vicki Roberts, co-owner of the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast and a Kenton resident for 45 years. “There is no traffic noise and no light pollution. This is God’s wonderland,” she says. “But I’m a little prejudiced.”
Kenton area rancher Leon Apple, who directs the community’s two-performance Easter pageant, continues: “You kind of have to be used to it, but there’s no place I’d rather be,” he says.
Polly Kiker, manager of the nearby Black Mesa State Park and Wildlife Preserve, echoes the love of the area’s stillness.
“You can often stop and only hear animals and the wind,” she says. “You can see the Milky Way, and a huge number of stars are visible most nights.”
Kiker says that in the state park, wildlife and hiking opportunities await. Many come to hike the High Point Trail, an 8.4-mile trek that goes to Black Mesa, she says.
Kenton lies 38 miles northwest of Boise City and is less than 10 miles from the New Mexico and Colorado borders. Oklahoma City is some 360 miles distant, and Clayton, N.M., is 45 miles west.
The Saturday night-Easter morning pageant, scheduled for April 16 and 17, is staged by participants from Oklahoma and three other surrounding states, says Apple, and annually draws 400 to 500 people to the area. The 2022 pageant will be a continuation of an event that began in 1952 and has been held every year, except one when it was snowed out, says Roberts.
Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve is described by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department as a birder’s paradise, with golden eagles, scaled quail, black-billed magpies and pinyon jays. Other wildlife include black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, mule deer, bighorn sheep and antelope.
Jane Apple, co-owner of the Hitching Post Lodging and Ranch, offers a half-day tour to anyone who wants a closer look at the area. She and her husband also operate a working ranch, raising Angus cattle.
Roberts says that residents have this attitude about the high-desert Kenton weather, which this has brought extreme drought:
“Let’s wait and see what God’s gonna do – because we never know!”