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Crooked Oak Creek was a long ride, and quite disturbing at times. For one, the creek wanders through some serious neglect and polluting heavy industry. For another, I was using the little red Coolpix and it’s not working well. I stumbled across a reference to upgrading the firmware on the Coolpix and I thought it was working better. However, the mechanism for extending and retracting the lens is badly worn and freezes part way. It requires taking out the battery to get a reset. Also, the lens may be out of alignment, because the shots are consistently out of focus on the upper right corner. We had a good run, little red camera, but you are officially retired.
Our first two shots are two different angles looking across the lovely pasture toward a pair of small ponds rather close together, the source of Crooked Oak Creek. The willow trees mark the edge of the shallow ponds, and you may be able to discern how they lie in a shallow draw. Just behind me is the watershed between the Canadian River a couple of counties to the south and the North Canadian River just a few miles north. The creek runs across this field toward SE 89th, because the drainage ditch, then winds back around into another pond where 89th meets Eastern Avenue (above right). It crosses just a short time later (image left) still looking like a ditch, and runs northward along the west side of Eastern Avenue for a few miles. But in this first mile, it quickly picks up seasonal tributaries, making this a major creek very suddenly.
But while it gather size, it runs across some protected turf controlled by the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway company (Flynn Yard). In fact, it follows the long entrance drive all the way back against the rail lines. The next landowner north there is Premium Beers — a massive Anheuser-Busch distribution center. They doll it all up nice with a private drive that bridges the creek (image right). The next access to the creek is the north service road on Interstate 240 (image left).
This is where it gets ugly. From this point on, we pass through several miles of oil drilling equipment yards — numerous acres of pipe yard, drilling machinery, oilfield trucking, related industries and even a couple of old farm tractor outfits. This whole valley is “rough neck” territory, the nickname for oilfield drilling rig workers. And the creek shows the total contempt corporate drilling companies have for natural resources. Above right, the creek is wholly inaccessible on SE 66th because no one takes care of the creek. You can barely catch a glimpse of the dirty water from the street. I ran into that repeatedly, and they don’t want you to see it. Above left is a massive asphalt dumping yard, both paving materials and other stuff like roofing waste. That yard is for sale, abandoned without any effort at clean-up.
Between Eastern Avenue and the old Crossroads Mall (now a Mexican mall) and SE 66th to SE 59th is Valley Brook. This is easily the most corrupt and crooked little municipality in the state. Their water treatment (above right) is revoltingly primitive, sitting right on the creek bank. The water crawls out of the woods at Eastern Avenue and SE 59th (above left). The place is culturally rough-neck; the residents aren’t all low-life, but all of the business facing out on SE 59th are variations on “gentleman’s clubs.” It’s a ticket trap for drivers, as well, a major source of municipal revenue. Some time ago, the municipal judge owned the only towing business in town; think about that for a moment.
So while the creek leaves Valley Brook, it still wanders hidden behind fences that secure more oil field servicing yards. At this point most of the pollutants are particulate solids, but the moral pollution of human contempt is what really burns. It stinks where it crosses SE 44th (image right). But it has almost another mile of neglect and abuse hidden from sight before it catches one powerful dose of fallow regrowth just before it reaches Grand Boulevard. It approaches in a long forgotten culvert (image left), the only indicator that this area once hosted homes and businesses. The culvert ends at the road bed and forms a quiet pool on the north side of Grand Boulevard (image right). By some miracle, it now smells like a fishing pond.
After crossing Eastern Avenue again, it now runs through Trosper Park and the attached golf course. The park and golf course are divided by SE 29th (image below right). But even the golf course looks the worse for wear and shows very poor management. I know a little about one because my Dad was once worked on one in Purcell, OK. There is a nice quiet street running along the northern boundary of the course, SE 22nd. Some decades ago this was all the backside of Crooked Oak school district. There isn’t any actual community by that name, but at some point the folks here chartered their own independent school district, and their mascot is — you guessed it, “the Ruffnex.” So this quiet lane runs between the golf course on the south and their school sports complex on the north, with a city parks maintenance yard squeezed in one side.
Just a little farther east is what was once Cooper Creek Apartments. As I’ve noted before, it was a really bad experiment in project housing, being too remote from any of the typical life supports. So the frustrated little rats housed here destroyed the place and their families were evicted. The whole thing was destroyed, leaving only a vast green area still mowed by someone, but otherwise it contains a surprising number of homeless. The creek runs in the far background of this picture, and after seeing it was occupied, I decided to leave the folks to their privacy.
The next access would have been SE 15th, but it crosses the curvy Grand Boulevard just a few yards from there, so I shot from a position that shows that short stretch. From here it runs up behind one of the largest salvage automobile holding yards in the state on one side, and another pipe yard on the other side. From there it runs along Bryant Avenue and down behind another long-gone apartment complex. This one, perched on the south side of Interstate 40, was burned out several times and is not just a green pasture. So the creek runs under I-40 there and toward Reno Avenue just below an exit ramp from the interstate (image left).
Just across Reno you can see the creek run it’s final stretch into the North Canadian. This is also where that odd loop and bridge on the Eagle Lake Bike Trail stands. However, in this last image they are obscured behind the railroad bridge.