For the coast-to-coast road trip through the old Route 66, I set a goal to visit a place and have something to remember from in each of the states that we passed along the route. In the state of Oklahoma, we thought that place would be The Rock Cafe in Stroud, but unfortunately we ended up not visiting the place.
Still determined to find a landmark that can represent our journey through Route 66 in Oklahoma, I went through my Route 66 guidebooks to find ideas for any place we can visit that wouldn’t be too much out of the way since we had a tight schedule for the day trying to reach Chicago area by that night. I found one quirky landmark that I fit that criteria and seemed to be a good representation of Route 66 in Oklahoma, a place with literally a Blue Whale structure in Catoosa.
What was a whale doing in Oklahoma, you might ask. I had the same question, and not until I read about the history of this place. The structure was built by a gentleman named Hugh Davis. Mr. Davis was a retired zoologist who used to work at the Tulsa Zoo. He and his wife loved animals and kids. So in their property was on Route 66 he built a facility to educate people about nature. First he built an ark with cut-out wooden animals where kids could celebrate birthdays. Then he opened up an alligator ranch and a small zoo with live alligators, snake pit, and prairie dog village.
In the late 1960s Mr. Davis started working on an idea of having a ‘fish’ at the pond. This evolved to a whale. It took him two years to build the whale, and in 1972 he completed it and presented it as an anniversary gift to his wife Zelta.
The Blue Whale then became a popular attraction on Route 66. People could picnic near the pond, swam in the pond, and use the smiling whale as jumping board or slide to the pond. In 1988, the Blue Whale was closed because Mr. Davis’ had arthritis and was not able to maintain the place anymore. He died two years later, and his wife died in 2001. The place is now owned by their daughter and her husband. The Davis’ son and grandsons keep the grounds maintained and the gates open so people can continue to enjoy the Blue Whale.
In the last 15 years, the community around Catoosa has also been working on restoring the landmark. When we stopped by, there were no one there, but we could see that the whale and the benches around the pond had vibrant colors from fresh coat of paint, and it didn’t feel like it was an abandoned landmark.
Our visit was brief, and it might not happen had we not decided to skip The Rock Cafe. But looking back I’m glad we did visit the place that not only is a distinct landmark along the route but also had a wonderful story behind it.