Bartlesville, Oklahoma: Prairie Road Trip Day Four

Price Tower Bartlesville
The final leg of the drive will take you through Pawhuska, Oklahoma, a historic town east of Ponca City that is headquarters to the Osage Nation. Stop at the Osage Tribal Museum, the oldest continuously operating tribal museum in the country, for a glimpse of tribal life that goes back to the 1800s.

Road Trip Starting Point:
Driving the Prairie

Pawhuska also is the gateway to another tallgrass prairie preserve. At 39,000 acres, it's the largest protected prairie in the world -- and it's very protected. The Nature Conservancy, which owns it, allows limited access, mostly just drive-through visitors. A herd of more than 2,000 bison roams free, and the rules listed for viewing the herd are simple: 1. Stay in your car. 2. Stay in your car. 3. Stay in your car.

Farther east, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, might seem an unlikely place for the sole skyscraper by one of the nation's preeminent architects, but Frank Lloyd Wright always was a nonconformist. Besides, for the architect, a commission was a commission.

Built as world headquarters for the H.C. Price Pipeline Company, the 19-story, cantilevered, copper-clad Price Tower (above) rises boldly from the flat land. Today, the ground floor houses a contemporary arts center that hosts exhibits on art, design and architecture, while a boutique hotel occupies higher floors. Tours of the building are available, including a visit to H.C. Price's fabulous but not particularly practical Wright-designed office.

The Wright tower is in good company: Bartlesville is a hotbed of midcentury architecture, including buildings by Cliff May, who developed the California ranch house; Welton Becket, whose mark is all over Los Angeles; and Bruce Goff, known for inventive and idiosyncratic structures.

To pay homage to the black gold responsible for this architectural bounty, you can also visit a replica (on the original site) of Nellie Johnstone, the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma, and the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum. Then, be sure to visit the Copper Bar on the 15th floor of Price Tower and raise a glass to the view of a sweeping swath of America few people take the time to appreciate.

<< Previous Stop: Ponca City, Oklahoma
Road Trip Starting Point: Driving the Prairie >>

Looking for more road trip ideas? Visit our Great American Road Trips home page.

The beautiful great plains have a dark side -- this part of the country is also known as Tornado Alley. Storm chasing, to witness the grandeur of nature's power, is actually a tourist activity 'round these parts, but the massive twister that recently ravaged Moore, Oklahoma -- about 100 miles south of Ponca City -- was a disaster of unimaginable scale. Take tornado watches and warnings seriously, and follow National Weather Service safety tips. And if you would like to help Moore rebuild, here are some ways to help.

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