Built slightly after the heyday of American Roadside Attractions, the Blue Whale of Catoosa has nonetheless become one of the most popular and recognizable sites along Historic Route 66. Built in 1972 by Hugh Davis for his wife Zelta as a 34th wedding anniversary present, the smiling blue whale has happily greeted visitors and those simply passing through the Oklahoma region.
While Davis built the whale specifically for his wife, the children that lived nearby were also considered in his design. Having seen them swimming and playing in the little pond, he made sure that the feature could be used as a makeshift dock and slide. The pond surrounding the Blue Whale is spring fed and was originally intended strictly for family use. After locals and weary travelers began stopping by and enjoying a refreshing dip in the cool water, Davis added tons of sand, picnic tables, and after hiring a lifeguard opened his little pool to the public.
Over the years since it was originally built and known as Nature’s Acres, Davis continually added to the attraction till the entire site became destination of its own that happened to encircle a giant plaster whale. The site went on to include The Fun, Swim Blue Whale, and the A.R.K. (Animal Reptile Kingdom). The Blue Whale also featured Davis’ brother-in-law, a local Indian Chief named Wolf-Robe Hunt. Chief Wolf-Robe Hunt was Acoma and somewhat famous as a painter and silversmith and he ran the Arrowood Trading post across the highway from the Blue Whale attraction.
In 1988, no longer able to continue with managing the attraction due to their age, Hugh and Zelta decided it was time to close to the public. Hugh passed away in January of 1990 and his wife followed in 2001.
From the time of its closing, the Blue Whale and surrounding attractions fell into disrepair much in the same style of many attractions along Route 66 during this time. Crumbling from harsh weather and neglect, the Blane Davis (son of Hugh and Zelta), the people of Catoosa, and a local Hampton Inn launched a fundraiser to restore the now historic landmark. With the money raised and hard work of countless volunteers, the picnic area was restored and the Whale was once again painted a bright blue, the way it always should be.
The Blue Whale of Catoosa is the very epitome of an American roadside attraction and lives forever as as something of a love letter from a husband to his wife.
Blue Whale of Catoosa Facts
- The Blue Whale, made of painted concrete and wood has been affectionately been known as “Blue” since it first debuted in 1972.
- The whale was chosen because Zelta, the wife of builder Hugh Davis had something of a love for the animals and collected whale figurines for years.
- The Blue Whale was featured on season 6 of the Food Network’s, The Great Food Truck Race“, and an episode of American Pickers entitled “On the Road Again”.
- Hugh Davis once had a job as a director of a Tulsa zoo, and he and Zelta ran an alligator farm just off of Route 66.
- Swimming is no longer allowed at the site but fishing is. Fishing is catch and release only.