Visit these free ranges of America’s first National Mammal, the American Bison

bison_Custer-State-Park-WEB

Bison herd in Custer State Park, South Dakota

Seeing large mammal wildlife in the wild can be one of the great pleasures of RVing. Watch herds of Roosevelt  Elk at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California feed in a meadow viewable from the campground, or a great bull moose wallowing in a lake in the Grand Tetons excites the photographer gene in most of us. But the king of large mammal watching is the American Bison.

Once close to extermination from indiscriminate hunting in the developing West, bison herds have been restored to public lands to roam free for all of us to see – without a fence in sight. Seeing large mammal wildlife in the wild can be one of the great pleasures of RVing. Watching herds of Roosevelt  Elk at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California feed in a meadow viewable from the campground, or a great bull moose wallowing in a lake in the Grand Tetons excites the photographer gene in most of us.

But the king of large mammal watching is the American Bison, once close to extermination from indiscriminate hunting in the developing West, their herds now have been restored to public lands to roam free for all of us to see – without a fence in sight.

When most people think of bison-watching, they think of Yellowstone National Park, and rightfully so. Bison, named by Congress on April 26, 2016, the nation’s first National Mammal, have roamed freely in what is now a national park since prehistoric times and today number about 4,900 – the largest herd on America’s public lands. But there are other places that you can see free roaming bison also. Here are four more popular but less well known bison-friendly grazing areas on public lands, all within a relatively short driving range in four adjoining Western states.

National Bison Range – Montana

The cantankerous, ornery, bellicose, ill-tempered, and dangerous American Bison male can weigh 2,000 pounds, run as fast as a horse, and wields a fearsome set of horns. They fight ferociously during mating season and define the word “unpredictable.” Even more fearsome is a cow bison protecting her calf. At the bison range, a National Wildlife Refuge established in 1908 and one of the oldest in the country, you can view these magnificent relics of the Old West from the safety of your rig. Today the refuge, in Moiese, Montana, north of Missoula is home to between 350 and 500 bison, along with elk, white-tail and mule deer, coyote, bighorn sheep, black bear, and pronghorn.  A one-way loop road circles the 18,500-acre range through open grassland, forest, and wetland habitats, but except for a couple of specific locations, you must stay in your vehicle. You can’t outrun a bison so it’s best to follow this advice. Start your visit at the Visitor Center for an overview. Large RVs are not advised on the dirt loop road, as there is a steep winding downgrade on part of the loop. Use your tow vehicle or limit your visit to the two-way accessible part of the loop.

Custer State Park – South Dakota

About 1,300 bison wander about the park, but on September 30, cowboys and cowgirls gather to round up the herd for culling to keep the herd at a manageable size and to control disease. But the round-up also provides some great viewing for the public, reminiscent of scenes out of the Old West. The event is free and is in conjunction with the Arts Festival. Call (605) 255-4515 for more info. The adjacent Black Hills National Forest has 30 no hook-up campgrounds (water and toilets available) as well as dispersed camping.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota

Located in the Badlands of western North Dakota about 500 bison range in the two sections of the park. President Roosevelt helped head up the American Bison Society to keep the animals from going extinct. Two no hook-up campgrounds lie along the Little Missouri River, many with partial shade from the cottonwood trees along the river. Water and toilets are available.

Wind Cave National Park – Hot Springs, South Dakota isn’t a large park, but it has something bison love – prairie grasses. They also like prairie dog towns where they like to roll in the dust to get rid of insects and enjoy a dust bath. Though small, the park has something bison love – prairie grasses. They also like prairie dog towns where they roll in the dust to get rid of insects and enjoy a dust bath. And don’t forget to visit the the cave, one of the longest and most complex caves in the world.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s