Skip Navigation

Oliver's Woods

Flooded bottomland forest of Oliver's Woods Natural Area

Oliver's Woods Ecological
Laboratory & Natural Area

Oliver's Woods is a 70 acre river bottom woodland adjacent to the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The northern border is bounded by State Highway 9 and the forest of juniper and elm there sits on a plateau rising 25 feet above the rest of the Woods. The southern two thirds of the preserve is located on the floodplain of the Canadian River. The Woods has large diameter bur oak, hackberry, and elm in the southwestern quarter. The northeast section is dominated by well spaced large pecan trees. The western central section grades from a cattail swamp and small ponds with permanent water, to a seasonally flooded forest with dense young green ash regeneration, to open more well drained stands of large diameter ash, cottonwoods and elm.

The Oklahoma Biological Survey manages the area and coordinates its use for classroom and research purposes. Oliver's Woods is an Oklahoma Registered Natural Area.

Using and Visiting Oliver's Woods

For Teaching & Research

Oliver's Woods is managed by the Oklahoma Biological Survey.  We encourage the OU community to use this area for biological and ecological teaching and research and natural history observation.

Oliver's Woods is not a recreation area and is not open to the public.

Contact us if you have questions about visiting and using Oliver’s Woods for teaching or research.

Community Science

Oliver's Woods is on iNaturalist!  Your observations will automatically be added to the Oliver's Woods project if you make them within the fenced area.

Friends of Oliver's Woods Mailing List

If you would like keep up-to-date about on going events, activites, and volunteer opportunities, sign up for our mailing list!

Chuck's Loop Trail is Open

We will have regular walks led by biologists and students, but you don't need a special event, you can walk the loop trail on your own! 

The clockwise loop starts at the gate on the SW corner of Jenkins and Hwy 9 (you can park on the grass along the fence).  This is the NE corner of Oliver's Woods.  The loop is marked with round, aluminum signs with green arrows. 

Thanks to the many volunteers who helped make this possible!

Charles Carpenter's children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren celebrate the naming of Chuck's Loop.

On Saturday, April 15th we dedicated the loop trail in honor of Dr. Charles Carpenter, former OU herpetologist and Oliver's Woods researcher.  We were so happy to have his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with us to celebrate the trail naming! 

We even found a few herps on our hike of the loop!

Learn more about Chuck.

Charles Carpenter

Use the link below to find a map of the loop on the All Trails app.

We encourage the OU community to use this area for biological and ecological teaching and research and natural history observation.  Do not disturb any equipment, flagging, markers, or stakes.

This is not a recreation area.   

Enter at your own risk.

Pets are prohibited.

Volunteers at Oliver's Woods.


by William. T. Penfound, 1966

While collecting salamander eggs in, what is now the Oliver Wildlife Preserve, in the spring of 1945, Dr. Arthur N. Bragg was apprehended by the owner, Mr. Fred G. Oliver. During the subsequent conversation Mr. Oliver said that he was interested in donating the area to the University of Oklahoma provided that the property be allowed to remain in its natural condition. After about a year (September 6, 1946), it was deeded to the University with the statement that it was "For use primarily for experimental purposes and to provide a wildlife sanctuary."

Utilization of the preserve
The Oliver Wildlife Preserve has become one of the most useful university research reserves in the country. The Department of Zoology has used it almost weekly since its establishment, especially professors Bragg, Carpenter, Ghent, Hopla, and Sutton. It is estimated that these professors have led an average of twelve (12) classes per year in the sanctuary. In the course of research in the preserve it is probable the professors and students have spent an average of 100 man~hours annually. The number of research papers based on the preserve is quite impressive, with a total of fourteen in zoology and two in botany. It has served as a rich source of records for the proposed book on the birds of Oklahoma. In addition, members of other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and the Cleveland County Bird Club have visited the preserve for nature study.

The proposed highway through the sanctuary
In the course of the past three years it has been rumored that State Highway Number 9 was to pass near or through the Oliver Wildlife Preserve. Repeated letters from the preserve committee to the administrative officials of the University of Oklahoma always brought the same reassuring response that there was nothing to worry about. The committee first learned in late 1965 that the highway was to bi-sect the sanctuary, and registered their protest at a meeting of the City Commission. In the Norman Transcript for January 26, 1966, however, there occurred this statement which certainly had a ring of finality: "Under the city-state agreement the 4.07 mile route of the relocated highway will be as originally planned. This will take it through the south portion of the University's Oliver Wildlife Preserve." Obviously the University officials have either given permission directly or have arrived at a "decision by default" by not protesting at the proper time. In any case, the preserve committee was not consulted regarding this decision.

Effects of loss of the Preserve
The Oliver Wildlife Preserve is vital to the research and teaching program of the University of Oklahoma. It seems probable that, fifty years hence, the Oliver Wildlife Preserve might well be considered as "unique and valuable beyond price." Furthermore, we need more, and not fewer, natural areas if man is to retain his health and sanity. The gift of the Oliver Tract was made with the understanding that the area was to remain in its primeval condition. However, the bi-section of the preserve will have eliminated this "primeval condition'"and destroyed the preserve as a wildlife sanctuary.

The future
At the business meeting of the Cleveland County Bird Club on Thursday, February 10, 1966, unanimous decision was reached to campaign vigorously against the bisection of the Oliver Wildlife Preserve by the four-lane highway. The organization supports the relocation of the highway but feels it is imperative that the proposed route be changed to pass either along the south end of or the north end of the preserve and not through the middle of this valuable piece of living wilderness,

Wm. T. Penfound, President Cleveland County Bird Club

Historic Maps

Aerial Image of Oliver's Woods with Trees Plotted
Aerial Image with Trees Plotted. Map created by Dr. Ken Hobson 2000
Hand drawn map by Dr. Charles Carpenter in 1975
Hand drawn map by Dr. Charles Carpenter in 1975
Hand drawn map 1953, unknown source
Hand drawn map from 1953, unknown source.


The ecology, flora, and fauna of Oliver's Woods has been studied before it was even officially part of the University of Oklahoma.  Many of these research projects have been published and still provide useful information for Oliver's Woods researchers today.

Group of forensic entomology students doing field studies at Oliver's Woods

Historic Photographs

Oliver's Woods Activities

Class of students pose for group picture in Oliver's Woods
Man stands inside a large, hollow cottonwood tree
Students examine a plot in Oliver's Woods