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El Reno, Oklahoma
Downtown El Reno
Downtown El Reno
El Reno, Oklahoma is located in Oklahoma
El Reno, Oklahoma
El Reno, Oklahoma
Location in Oklahoma
El Reno, Oklahoma is located in the United States
El Reno, Oklahoma
El Reno, Oklahoma
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Canadian
 • Total 79.84 sq mi (206.78 km2)
 • Land 79.24 sq mi (205.24 km2)
 • Water 0.59 sq mi (1.54 km2)
1,358 ft (414 m)
 • Total 16,749
 • Estimate 
 • Density 251.95/sq mi (97.28/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 405
FIPS code 40-23700
GNIS feature ID 1092512

El Reno is a city in and county seat of Canadian County, Oklahoma, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 16,729. The city was begun shortly after the 1889 land rush and named for the nearby Fort Reno. It is located in Central Oklahoma, about 25 miles (40 km) west of downtown Oklahoma City.


El Reno 1891
Panoramic map of El Reno, 1891

The city was originally located about five miles (8 km) north of its present location, on the banks of the North Canadian river, bearing the name Reno City, which caused its mail to get mixed up with mail for Reno, Nevada. After the second time the town flooded, it was moved to its present location and changed its name to El Reno. This word is Spanish for "the reindeer".

Historic Fort Reno was built in 1874, and first commanded by General Philip Sheridan. He named it in honor of his friend, Gen. Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in the Civil War. The grounds of the old fort became home to a research laboratory for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1948. The laboratory studies environmentally sustainable forage and livestock production, contributing to preservation of the great plains of North America.

El Reno is located on the 98th Meridian, which allowed the eastern side to be opened to non-Indian settlement in the Land Run of 1889. The western side was opened in the 1892 opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands. It was subsequently selected as the land district office for the 1901 land lottery drawings.

During WWII, Fort Reno, about 5 mi (8.0 km) north west of El Reno, was the site of a prisoner of war camp, and today contains a P.O.W. cemetery, with stones bearing the names of German and Italian prisoners who died there.

Southwestern Federal Reformatory, restricted to male prisoners under the age of 35, was constructed about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of El Reno in 1935. Renamed the Federal Correctional Institution of El Reno in the mid-1970s, the population expanded to include men of all ages. It became the fifth largest prison in the U.S. It is still one of the largest employers in El Reno.

It is the only city in Oklahoma to have a streetcar in operation in the downtown area. At one time it possessed a terminal and repair facility for the CRI&P (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, or "Rock Island") railroad, which employed a large number of people. The CRI&P went bankrupt in 1975. The railroad yards have remained vacant property. The old depot and some other buildings were acquired by the Canadian County Historical Society for use as part of a museum complex. The 1954 film noir Human Desire includes locomotive and yard scenes filmed in the El Reno rail yards.

El Reno is a Main Street community. The Oklahoma Main Street Program is a downtown revitalization program and the El Reno Program won the Great American Main Street Award in 2006.

The town is noted for its annual Fried Onion Burger Day Festival, which is always the 1st Saturday in May. Burger Day is where you can witness the cooking of the world’s largest fried onion hamburger, weighing over 850 pounds (400 kg). The giant burger contains all the important parts of the famous El Reno fried onion burgers which includes meat, fried onions, sliced pickles, and mustard all between two giant buns. Not only do festival goers get to watch the massive burger be built and cooked, but they are also allowed to help eat the monstrosity. Volunteers divide the giant burger into individual sized portions with burger-sized cookie cutters. Other volunteers shuttle back and forth from the burger to the crowd, delivering the free portions to anyone wanting a piece. The idea of the fried onion burger was born out of necessity during the Great Depression, where onions were used to stretch out the meat supply.

On June 15, 2015, Sid's Diner was featured on the Food Network series Top 5 Restaurants, with the Fried-Onion Burger being highlighted. Sid's Diner has also been featured on the Travel Channel series Man v. Food.

2013 tornado

El Reno was hit by a multiple-vortex tornado on May 31, 2013. The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes was hit by this storm, but survived it. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and TWISTEX colleague Carl Young lost their lives near the Regional Airport. Paul and Young were ejected from their Chevrolet Cobalt by the tornado's sub-vortex while Tim was still buckled in the passenger's seat next to Young's driving seat. Local amateur chaser, Richard Henderson lost his life in that same area. Before the tornado stuck him, Henderson snapped a picture of it from his cellular phone and sent that picture to a friend. Dan Robinson of St. Louis successfully escaped the tornado with a few injuries. He was a few hundred meters ahead of the TWISTEX crew.


El Reno is located at 35°31′49″N 97°57′27″W / 35.53028°N 97.95750°W / 35.53028; -97.95750 (35.530261, −97.957529). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 80.4 square miles (208 km2), of which, 80.0 square miles (207 km2) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) of it (0.56%) is water.

El Reno is located in the United States at the interchange of I-40 and U.S. Route 81. At one time it sat on the boundary between Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, and sits about 20 miles (32 km) west of the old Chisholm Trail. Jesse Chisholm is buried nearby.

In 1952, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck near El Reno, causing damage to several buildings in the city. It is currently Oklahoma's third-strongest earthquake on record, and it was the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history prior to the November 5, 2011 earthquake near Sparks.


El Reno has endured numerous weather- and climate-related incidents in recent years:

  • On January 30, 2002, El Reno was hit by a severe ice storm that left most of the city without power for several days and caused thousands of dollars of damage in downed trees and powerlines. The storm brought around two inches of ice, with as much as 6 inches over the following days. All of Canadian County was designated as a Federal Disaster Area.
  • During the May 3, 1999 tornado outbreak, El Reno suffered damage from one of the many tornadoes that formed from the same storm that produced the infamous F5 tornado that day. Parts of Redlands Community College were damaged.
  • El Reno has weathered several ice storms in recent years, including the January 4–5, 2005 storm that left up to two inches of ice in the hardest-hit locations.
  • In 2006, El Reno experienced "exceptional" drought conditions as the entire state endured one of the driest summers on record.
  • On March 12, 2006, drought conditions allowed an area wildfire to grow to burn over a thousand acres (4 km²). Winds carried the smoke into the Oklahoma City metro, spurring thousands of calls to emergency services by concerned residents.
  • On April 24, 2006, a rare anti-cyclonic tornado hit El Reno's municipal airport, causing damage to the hangars and small airplanes.
  • On the night of May 8, 2007, a tornado ripped through the south and east sides of the city. There was at least 1 injury when the tornado knocked over a semi on I-40.
  • Overnight on August 19, 2007, Tropical Storm Erin dumped over 10 inches (250 mm) of rain on El Reno and the surrounding area. This caused extensive flooding.
  • On May 24, 2011, a violent long-track tornado passed through the El Reno area, causing extensive damage and killing nine people. The tornado was given an EF5 rating after reviewing the damage.
  • On May 31, 2013, the 2013 El Reno tornado, the widest tornado ever documented hit El Reno. The tornado was an estimated 2.6 miles in width and had a recorded wind speed of >295 mph, one of the two highest wind speeds on record along with winds observed in the 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado. It hit the outskirts of the city, prompting a tornado emergency for El Reno and surrounding cities. The tornado killed eight people, including four storm chasers.
Climate data for El Reno, Oklahoma
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 47.4
Average low °F (°C) 23.9
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.0
Source #1:
Source #2:


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 285
1900 3,383 1,087.0%
1910 7,872 132.7%
1920 7,737 −1.7%
1930 9,384 21.3%
1940 10,078 7.4%
1950 10,991 9.1%
1960 11,015 0.2%
1970 14,510 31.7%
1980 15,486 6.7%
1990 15,414 −0.5%
2000 16,212 5.2%
2010 16,749 3.3%
2019 (est.) 19,965 19.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

El Reno is part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area.

As of the census of 2010, 16,749 people, 5,727 households, and 3,842 families resided in the city. The population density was 202.7 people per square mile (78.3/km2). The 6,484 housing units averaged 81.1 per square mile (31.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.8% White, 11.1% Native American, 7.2% African American, 0.5% Asian, 4.7% from other races, and 4.7% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 12.9% of the population.

Of the 5,727 households, which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were not families. About 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was distributed as 24.2% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 114.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 119.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,200, and for a family was $39,106. Males had a median income of $29,521 versus $20,107 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,570. About 11.4% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.


  • Canadian Valley Technology Center is on famed Route 66 about 3 mi (5 km) east of the city.
  • Redlands Community College opened in 1971.


El Reno is served by Interstate 40, US Route 81, US Route 270 (just west of town), and Oklahoma State Highway 66.

Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound Lines.

El Reno Regional Airport (KRQO; FAA ID: RQO), four miles southwest, has a 5600’ x 75’ paved runway.

Commercial air transportation is available at Will Rogers World Airport, about 29 miles southeast.

El Reno is on the route of the AT&L Railroad, which has branches running to Watonga and Bridgeport through Geary, Oklahoma, with overhead trackage rights on Union Pacific to Oklahoma City. Traffic includes grain, fertilizer and agriculture-related products. The town is also directly on Union Pacific's rail line, and the railroad honors El Reno as a “Train Town USA,” one of 131 communities out of 7,300 communities it serves, because of the town’s unique, long-standing relationship with the line.

Notable people

  • Charles Cannon (1915–1997), the Texas saddlemaker, broke horses for the U.S. government in El Reno during World War II.
  • Harlond Clift (1912-1992), Major League Baseball infielder
  • Suzan Shown Harjo (1945-), advocate for American Indian rights
  • Solomon Andrew Layton (1864-1943), architect, was born in Iowa, but moved to El Reno in 1902, then to Oklahoma City in 1911.
  • Sam Pittman (1961-), Head Football Coach Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Harvey Pratt (1941-), Native American forensic artist
  • Hub Reed (1936-), pro basketball player (St. Louis Hawks, Cincinnati Royals, Los Angeles Lakers, and Detroit Pistons)
  • Erik Rhodes (1906-1990), Broadway and Hollywood actor
  • Sam Rivers (1923-2011), jazz musician and composer
  • Kenzie Ruston (1991-), NASCAR driver in the K&N Pro Series East
  • Gaylord Shaw (1942-), 1978 Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, managing editor of Dallas Times Herald and Los Angeles Times
  • Robert Stanley (aviator) (1912-1977), test pilot

See also

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