King of the Prairie

by Jerry Rhodes April. 20, 2019 129 views
American Bison at home on the range at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

American Bison at home on the range at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

There is something very special about standing on the prairie in the seeming utter silence only to realize there is no silence: there is the song of the wind as it plays with your hair, caresses your cheeks, and tickles your ears.

There is the almost unending melody sung by the somewhat shy meadow larks or the call of the graceful scissor-tailed flycatcher as they do their acrobatics in hunt for bugs.

Towards evening you will hear the buzz of the nighthawk as it swoops down not all that far from where you're standing as it gobbles up its meal of bugs.

Around the same time you'll most likely hear the chorus coyotes as they discuss the evening's plans.

If you're lucky you will witness the dance of the coyote as they prepare themselves for the evening's hunt.

While standing underneath a star filled canopy as you observe the Milky Way in hopes of a shooting star or two you just might get spooked by the passing of what first may appear to be a Nazgul from the Lord of the Rings but what you sheepishly realize moments later was a great horned owl.

And if you're super, super lucky and in Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, you might get to experience something very few people ever get to experience -- yourself stepping in something squishy and oozy and what you come to realize is a semi-fresh buffalo chip. Not many Americans can say they've stepped in a buffalo chip anymore. Most have never seen one. It's just processed grass. Wipe your shoes off on the grass, savor the moment, and move on.

Just a few miles north of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, located in Osage County, sits the largest and one of the last open expanses of native tallgrass prairies in the world.

The Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve comprises over 39,000 acres of protected tallgrass prairie and is home to The Christina Adams Bison Herd which comprise approximately 2,500 free-range bison. Though there are fences to prevent the herd from wandering off, with 39,000 acres, there is plenty of room for the bison to stretch their legs and move around....plenty.

If you have never been to the Preserve, I HIGHLY recommend a visit.

What you will find: NO admission fee, openness, big skies, fresh air, and maybe some bison, maybe some deer, turkeys, and birds. There is a place to get out and hike some trails though the trails do not enter the bison herd range.

There is a gravel road (usually kept in very good condition) which enters the preserve and loops around. You won't have access to all parts of the land. Stay on the roads. DON'T try to get out and get selfies with the bison. They are wild, they are huge, and they can hurt you.

What you won't find: a zoo, stress (unless you bring it with you), restaurants (though there is a small gift shop), gas stations (pretty much no amenities.)

You may very well go on a day when the herd is hiding in the shade in some of the non-accessable areas; won't lie to you. Or you may be there on a day when they bison are using the road for nap time. Don't be in a hurry. Drive the loop a time or two. Eventually the bison do move, especially as the day winds down. During the heat of the day is not the best time to be there as they will be napping and seeking cool locations.

Me? For another opportunity to meet up with this guy again, you bet I'd go and take the chance.

Join the conversation
There are 2 comments , add yours!
Russell Smith 10 months ago

They are a noble animal. One thing that blew me away when I was younger was watching one hop over a fence to eat some grass and then hop back over as soon as it was done with the grass. It made me realize not only are they powerful but nimble too.

10 months ago Edited
Jerry Rhodes Replied to Russell Smith 10 months ago

Though I have not seen one jump a fence, I have been out at Tallgrass Prairie enough and watched them enough to know that they are indeed nimble and quick on their feet. They are not some lumbering and slow, dumb animal.

10 months ago Edited