One of the most iconic scenes of the American prairie is of the herd of buffalo, some of the most striking and powerful animals out of our shared heritage.
Buffalo, also known as American bison, are the largest land animals in North America and are exclusive to this continent.
In the Old West, the buffalo meant survival to frontier settlers; and as time went on, these giant creatures were nearly hunted to extinction for their meat and hide.
Luckily, the buffalo is one of nature’s great success stories, with a little help from concerned naturalists.
Today, there are camp grounds throughout the Midwest that offer prime opportunities to see the American bison live and in person. Let’s visit a few now.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: This federal nature preserve in Oklahoma is where the buffalo first began to stage its comeback in 1907. The land is kept in an “open range” condition suitable for sightseeing via automobile, and drivers must be extremely aware of the wildlife. Doris Campground provides single-unit and group tent camping, including some “semi-primitive” camp grounds. There are just under 100 sites total, administered wholly on a first-come, first-serve basis. RVs are also permitted, but must meet strict rules on length and occupancy. For info on buffalo sighting, see the American Bison page.
Denver Mountain Parks: The Denver Mountain Parks system in Denver, Colorado is known for maintaining two healthy, vibrant bison herds. Around Interstate 70 or just off Exit 188 on Interstate 25, you’re likely to see full-grown bulls and cows wandering by roadside fences, especially in the fall. There are eighteen parks with ample camp grounds in the Denver system, but the keystone for bison-watchers is Genesee Park. Genesee serves as caretaker to one herd and is the largest mountain park, over 2,400 acres. When you’re not viewing bison, you can enjoy great mountain hiking trails. Daniels Park also keeps a herd, on 1,000 acres with plenty of scenic overlooks.
Terry Bison Ranch: Open all year round in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Terry Bison Ranch offers an RV park and campground as well as plenty of tent camping areas. Bison tours by train and guided trips down local trails by foot or horseback are available every day but Christmas. There’s also a full-service restaurant, The Senator’s Steakhouse and Brass Buffalo Saloon. They sure do know how to eat down in Cheyenne, and one of the weekly staple events is the Sunday lunch train, with beef, chicken, pork, and salmon. The trains not only bring you right through “bison country” – you can also catch sight of goats, donkeys, camels, and plenty of other critters. Extensive photos are available.
Antelope Island State Park: Located on the biggest island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah, Antelope Island State Park is home to 500-700 wandering buffalo depending on the season. Camping is available at the Bridger Bay campground for both tent and RV, and you can make reservations any time of the year. The centerpiece of the island is a working ranch, and guests are encouraged to go on driving “safaris” to see the famous herd.