Washington Irving's Tour on the Prairies


Nearly 200 years ago Washington Irving, America’s first international literary giant, visited the pristine prairies where Stillwater, OK now stands. Irving penned timeless tales like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” before embarking on an epic adventure in 1832 exploring part of the Louisiana Purchase that is now known as Oklahoma.

Washington Irving          Washington Irving - A Tour on the Prairies

Irving and his party followed the Cimarron River across the prairies to the area now known as Stillwater. On October 21, 1832 they were captivated at the site of the vast, verdant landscape of the Valley of the Still Water. Irving wrote, “We now came out upon a vast and glorious prairie spreading out beneath the golden beams of an autumnal sun. The deep and frequent traces of buffalo, showed it to be one of their favorite grazing grounds.”

          Washington Irving - A Tour on the Prairies

Washington Irving's path through central and eastern Oklahoma including the Stillwater area


Camping near present-day Ripley, Irving marveled at a rock formation that he mused reminded him of a Moorish castle. He admired the raw beauty of the area and wrote about it in his journal, including recounting the misadventures they had in trying to cross Stillwater Creek. At the time, the unnamed river ran clear and its banks were thickly wooded with fruit and pecan trees, wild grape vines and brambles. After selecting what appeared to be a good spot to cross, they rode down the banks but several members of the party were snagged in vines and brambles and ended up tumbling into the river including Irving himself. But he wrote that it was such a comedy of errors that the group spent time laughing about it rather than being too upset.


     Washington Irving Meeting the Osage
"Washington Irving Meeting the Osage" by Wayne Cooper hangs in the Oklahoma Senate Lounge


Irving immortalized his experiences in "A Tour on the Prairies," infusing his recollections of the area with the authentic spirit of the American Frontier. Today, you can walk in Washington Irving's footsteps and immerse yourself in the rich history and exuberance of America’s Friendliest College Town.


   Washington Irving



Explore Stillwater's Rich History!