National Bison Day, held annually the first Saturday of November, is a "commemoration of the ecological, cultural, historical and economic contribution of a national icon, the American bison."
According to the National Bison Association: "The bison, North America’s largest land mammal, have an important role in America’s history, culture and economy. Before being nearly wiped from existence by westward expansion, bison roamed across most of North America. The species is acknowledged as the first American conservation success story, having been brought back from the brink of extinction by a concerted effort of ranchers, conservationists and politicians to save the species in the early 20th century. In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison Society began this effort by shipping 15 animals by train from the Bronx Zoo to Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Many Native American tribes revere bison as a sacred and spiritual symbol of their heritage and maintain private bison herds on tribal lands throughout the West. Bison now exist in all 50 states in public and private herds, providing recreation opportunities for wildlife viewers in zoos, refuges and parks and sustaining the multimillion dollar bison ranching and production business."
While National Parks in the mountain west are typically thought of, bison were once abundant across Iowa. No wild populations remain, but several public and private landowners in the state have bison today. One great way to celebrate National Bison Day is to visit one of several places in western Iowa with public viewing of bison.
Botna Bend Park
This park is owned and managed by Pottawattamie Conservation and is located in the town of Hancock in eastern Pottawattamie County. It is located within the the Loess Hills Missouri River Region and along the West Nish Water Trail. The park includes bison and elk herds that can be easily viewed from the road. The park has a $3 entrance fee unless you have a Pottawattamie county parks annual pass.
Botna Bend even has two white bison, which are extremely rare:
Broken Kettle Grassland
The Nature Conservancy in Iowa owns the largest remnant prairie in the state in Plymouth County along the northern end of the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, and includes a herd of bison. Because they have a relatively large area to roam, you may not be able to get close. But drive Butcher Road and you may see them in the distance.
Prairie Heritage Center
O'Brien County Conservation Board's Prairie Heritage Center, along Glacial Trail Scenic Byway, has a small herd of bison.
Swan Lake State Park
Located in Carroll County, this park is managed by Carroll County Conservation Board and has a small bison herd.
This 5,500-acre land trust is a short drive from Western Skies Scenic Byway in Guthrie County. Whiterock is open to public visitation and includes dozens of miles of hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trails, camping, paddling, fishing, and much more.
Golden Hills partnered with Raygun to create a WanderLoess bison shirt to support our Loess Hills conservation work.