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Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Blaine
 • Type Aldermanic
 • Total 4.10 sq mi (10.62 km2)
 • Land 4.09 sq mi (10.59 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
1,516 ft (462 m)
 • Total 5,111
 • Estimate 
 • Density 694.45/sq mi (268.15/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 580
FIPS code 40-78950
GNIS feature ID 1099426

Watonga is a city in Blaine County, Oklahoma. It is 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The population was 5,111 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Blaine County.


Watonga is located on former Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation lands that were allotted to individual tribal members and the excess opened to white settlers in the Land Run of 1892. Watonga is named after Arapaho Chief Watonga whose name means "Black Coyote".

The town began as a tent city on April 19, 1892. A post office opened in Watonga during the same year. However, the first railroad line through Watonga was not built until 1901-02, when the Enid and Anadarko Railway (later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) constructed a line from Guthrie.


Watonga is located in central Blaine County at 35°50′57″N 98°24′42″W / 35.84917°N 98.41167°W / 35.84917; -98.41167 (35.849249, -98.411591). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.6 km2), of which 0.012 square miles (0.03 km2), or 0.28%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 842
1920 581 −31.0%
1930 1,038 78.7%
1940 2,828 172.4%
1950 3,249 14.9%
1960 3,252 0.1%
1970 3,696 13.7%
1980 4,139 12.0%
1990 3,408 −17.7%
2000 4,658 36.7%
2010 5,111 9.7%
2019 (est.) 2,841 −44.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2000 census, there were 4,658 people, 1,273 households, and 858 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,703.1 people per square mile (656.4/km2). There were 1,507 housing units at an average density of 551.0 per square mile (212.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.19% White, 15.33% African American, 8.24% Native American, 1.55% Asian, 2.02% Pacific Islander, 4.89% from other races, and 6.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.91% of the population.

There were 1,273 households, out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.3% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.5% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 36.7% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 169.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 191.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,208, and the median income for a family was $31,391. Males had a median income of $23,056 versus $16,146 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,567. About 12.4% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.

According to one report, Watonga's 42.9% reduction in population from 2010 to 2017 makes it the fastest shrinking place in Oklahoma.

Arts and culture

The city hosts an annual cheese & wine festival in October. The festival was formed in 1976 by the Watonga Chamber of Commerce because the town had the only cheese factory in Oklahoma at the time. The festival has continued even after the closing of the factory in 2007. In 2013, a wine competition was added to the festival.


Watonga's economy has largely been based on agriculture since statehood. In the early days, local farmers primarily were producers of wheat. The dairy industry grew in western Oklahoma and led to the opening of the Watonga Cheese Factory in 1941. It was one of the state's five active dairy product plants in 2004. The plant subsequently closed in 2007.

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores began with a single leased gas station in Watonga in the mid-1960s. Love's is now in 41 states, is approaching 500 travel centers, and employs 25,000 nationwide.

The city hosted the Diamondback Correctional Facility, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America from 1998, and the prison grew to become the town's largest employer. But the prison, housing Arizona inmates, experienced a riot in May 2004, and the contract to utilize the facility was not renewed, resulting in the prison closing in May 2010. This left 300 prison workers jobless or transferred elsewhere. The prison was still vacant as of March 2017.

The town Walmart closed in 2016.


Watonga connects with U.S. Route 270, State Highway 3, State Highway 8, and State Highway 51a.

Watonga is served by Watonga Regional Airport.

Rail freight carriage pertaining to grain, fertilizer, and other agriculture-related products is provided by AT&L Railroad, which runs from Watonga to Geary to El Reno, Oklahoma, with overhead trackage rights on the Union Pacific from El Reno to Oklahoma City.

Notable people

  • Sis Cunningham, musician known for folk and protest music
  • Thompson Benton Ferguson, newspaper publisher and eighth governor of the Oklahoma Territory
  • Trevon Hartfield, NFL safety
  • Robert J. Helberg, aeronautical engineer for NASA who contributed to the Lunar Orbiter program
  • Byron Houston, retired NBA player
  • Guy Lookabaugh, coach and former player of multiple sports
  • Jim Lookabaugh, football player and coach
  • Clarence Nash (1904–1985), the voice of Donald Duck in the 1930s
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