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Oklahomyths: The World’s “Highest” Hill

Fact-checking a persistent Oklahoma myth



 



THE CLAIM: Cavanal Hill is billed as “the world’s highest hill.” At 1,999 feet above sea level, 565 feet lower than Sugar Loaf, Cavanal stands one foot short of the American designation for a mountain’s minimum height.
 

THE SOURCE: Oklahoma Today, March/April 2015

FACT CHECK:  This subject was a tough one given that one of 405’s editors grew up in Poteau and had always believed it – the Poteau Chamber of Commerce website, poteauchamber.com, echoes the claim, and when “World’s Highest Hill” is searched in Google, the first several results are of Cavanal. But there’s a fly in the notoriety ointment: There is no American designation for the difference between a mountain and a hill. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The U.S. Board on Geographic Names once stated that the difference between a hill and a mountain in the U.S. was 1,000 feet of local relief, but even this was abandoned in the early 1970s.” The science-related How It Works reference guide summarizes: “Essentially, a hill becomes a mountain when someone names it as such.”

Oklahoma’s tallest hills are more than 300 miles west of Poteau, near the Texas border. Beaver County’s Indian Hill, the state’s eighth-highest peak, measures 2,592 feet. Bonham Hill (2,142 feet) and Ant Hill (2,041 feet), both near Sayre, are also higher than Cavanal. Beyond the state’s borders, the Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Mount Rushmore, measure in at more than 7,200 feet.

At 1,999 feet tall, towering over LeFlore County’s Poteau River Valley, Cavanal remains one of the state’s more impressive peaks. Its name comes from the French word for cave, a tribute to the coal mines on its eastern slopes. Today, its plateaued summit bristles with antennas and cell towers. A winding five-mile-long road – home to the Cavanal Killer 8k run each spring – twists and switchbacks up its wooded slopes, past homes with panoramic views of the Poteau River Valley and neighboring Arkansas.

Several Oklahoma peaks less lofty than Cavanal are designated as mountains. Among them: Blue Mountain (1,985 feet) near Wister; Haystack Mountain (1,959 feet) near Sayre; Phantom Mountain (1,949 feet) and Dead Man Mountain (1,890 feet), both near Grandfield; Candy Mountain (1,056 feet) and Eagle Mountain (994 feet) near Heavener; and Potts Mountain (663 feet) and Baldridge Mountain (636 feet), both near Wister.

The careful observer might note that the signs on the top of Cavanal touting its claim to fame employ quotation marks – “The World’s Highest Hill” – as if to imply a wink.

 

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January 2019

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
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