Overcast and rather cool all day. This wasn’t a hydrology study, so I wasn’t chasing the creek itself. I was heart-led to get a look at the area that would be covered by Draper Lake 2.0 (West Elm Creek Reservoir) whenever that happens. Today’s ride was full of surprises that indicated the water authority has already begun buying up the land. The first shot on the right is simply gazing down the very start of West Elm Creek, sourced just off Interstate 240; this is the view from the bike path.
From the end of the bike path I stayed on Midwest Boulevard straight down to SE 104th — which is a designated bike route. This second image shows land that would likely be partially under water, viewed from a ridge on Midwest Boulevard. At the corner of SE 104th stands the derelict Draper Lake Riding Club. Sorry, no horses for rent today. SE 104th is paved all the way out to Sooner Road (AKA Highway 77H). Nice and hilly with a few homes and ranches. I cut through a rather old but expensive neighborhood and took the highway down to SE 119th. Kitchen Lake there is simply not remarkable at all. Rather, it was the surrounding terrain that was quite rugged, but screened with lots of trees and shrubs. Lots of crags of red sandstone still stand above frequent little creek valleys that cut deep. It was all gravel road from here until I got back to Sooner Road.
This old barn stands on a high ridge, so it’s likely to survive, but access may be limited once the water rises up some of the draws I crossed on the way there. This is another view of the same ranch from its eastern side along Air Depot. I’ve not seen the most recent projections, but I imagine the pond is just above lake level.
The SE 119th and SE 134th entrances to the Draper Lake reserve were gated and closed. Actually, it all runs back through the current ATV trails section, but the officials require a permit, so they tightly control access to make sure they get those fees. However, there were several private roads also closed by the same peculiar painted pipe-frame gates used by OKC Parks and Recreation all over for several counties (OKC covers its own, and parts of several other counties). One led to an old housing development that was never fully sold. Several others were agricultural gates now covered in front by the Parks gates. That means they bought all the land that, just a couple of years ago, was actively used by private owners. This old bridge is partly disassembled and blocked by earthen mounds on both ends. It crosses West Elm Creek at what would have been Air Depot just off SE 134th. And SE 134 is now closed down here in the valley back east, and that came as a surprise to me.
So taking advantage of a forced detour, I spotted these old barns up against one of those sandstone mounds. These mounds have a thin covering of red clay that has weathered loose from the face of the stone, but not washed off yet, held in place by grass and trees. So it was back out to Sooner Road again and another mile south to SE 149th (AKA Stella Road).
This brick structure stands atop a ridge and I have no idea what it was, only that the brickwork is roughly a century old. SE 149th is just a series of steep hills and valleys, and down in the bottom of one creek was this long abandoned business. This will be under water someday soon.
I stopped for break at the corner of Douglas Boulevard. This bridge on the right, south off SE 149th should be just below the proposed dam. Back the other way should have allowed me to come back to Draper Lake near the water treatment facility, but the road was closed for construction. Finally, at that corner is this ancient country church house. I can recall it being a Baptist church, previously white painted wood some years back. The new steel covering hasn’t been on there all that long, but a sign on the door indicates the OKC Parks and Recreation now own it. This is still just below the proposed dam, but it seems the water board is buying everything near the future Draper 2.0. And I’m guessing it won’t be that long now before they start pushing dirt for the dam. Say goodbye to the West Elm Creek basin.
So I still had a very long ride ahead of me, because the next nearest route heading north was two miles in either direction. Fortunately, all I had to worry about was just tired legs, as the new saddle has saved me much sorrow.