Bison were hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s. Today’s North American population is about 500,000. Photo: Jonathan Mast.
Once a mainstay on the Great Plains, bison are making a comeback in the state in parks, nature preserves and farming operations. Here are a few spots to see the mighty beasts from the safety of your vehicle, via a short hike, or through a quick tour.
Bare Bison: The 250-head operation south of Van Meter offers up-close views of the animals on ATV tours as well as from the farm’s fence line. The shop sells bison meat in a variety of cuts, as well as hoodies, T-shirts, hats and other swag.
Fontana Park: The Buchanan County park north of Independence is home to Iowa native animals — bison, deer, eagles and more — in outdoor enclosures. The nature center provides interpretive experiences for families and groups.
Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch: A 40-head herd roams the pastures and woods of the farm in Fredericksburg, in northeast Iowa. You can tour the 150-year-old farm in a wagon to feed the bison.
Jester Park: Polk County Conservation operates this park in Granger and takes care of bison and elk in a sprawling enclosure near an observation deck and eco-friendly playground.
Native Prairie Bison: Former Navy SEAL Jathan Chicoine and his wife, Racheal Ruble, own and operate a bison farm northeast of Ames. With the herd’s help, they’re working to restore the 180-acre property’s native grasslands, oak savannas and other natural ecosystems.
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge: Take the 5-mile audio driving tour at the Prairie City preserve to see bison and elk roaming the prairie. Look for wallows — depressions devoid of vegetation — where the bison take dust baths.
Whiterock Conservancy: Bison herds often graze in the pastures south and west of the historic Garst family farmhouse home south of Coon Rapids and are often spotted from the Town Loop trail.
Show Comments (1)
How do I get ahold of the writer for the 6 spots to view bison. We are restoring native tall grass prairie, oak savanna, and other native ecosystems on our 180 acres with the help of a bison family herd. We would like to be added to the list. We are just NE of Ames, IA. Happy to send some articles on our operation. Thank you
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