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The Buffalo of Bartlesville

Article and photos by Kathryn Mann

There are fifteen life-sized artistically-painted buffalo sculptures throughout Bartlesville, but there are also two herds of real bison roaming the nearby grassy plains. The nearest one is about ten minutes from downtown at the Woolaroc Wildlife Preserve which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. However, the most magnificent one can be found at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve about 40 miles away.

Buffalo at Tall Grass Prairie Preserve
A real Buffalo who lives in the open plains near Bartlesville

Less than 160 years ago Oklahoma and most of its neighboring plains states were home to almost 60 million buffalo, but needless slaughter brought the species to near extinction by 1893. Fortunately there were just enough bison left to begin the first full scale conservation movement in America, and within 50 years their numbers had  increased to just over 3,000. Today a herd of almost 4,000 free-roaming American bison roam the rolling grasslands in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and can be observered up close along its 15 miles of dirt roads. There is no admission charge, and they are they open every day from dawn to dusk.

Bison in Tall Grass

Buffalo are very sweet and gentle creatures. I visit the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve several times each year and am often surrounded by several hundred of buffalo. I rarely see another human when I am out there.

Buffalo at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve entrance
I was very fortunate to find a group of Bison at the sign near the entrance of the Preserve.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on earth

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Khutso      9:34 PM Wed 8/12/2015

So impressive, Ash! Too many qlitus, huh? Maybe you should start selling them! I had a dream the other night that you quit your job and started being crafty full-time! We were also wedding dress shopping together! It was quite hilarious because in the middle of trying on dresses, there was a fire alarm and next thing I knew, we were at my school helping the kiddos get out of the building for the fire drill! Miss ya!

Kathryn Mann      4:51 PM Sat 1/29/2011


The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is an amazing sight during almost any time of year, and March is a very nice time to visit. Each season has its own advantages. The bison coats are thickest during the Winter to shield them from the elements. By going in March you may still get to see this splendor while avoiding the Winter cold. My favorite time is late Spring to mid-Summer, when the wildflowers are in bloom, birds and butterflies are abundant, and the weather is ideal for enjoying a windows-down (or top-down as you prefer) drive across the preserve. The buffalo's coats are sometimes shedding during this time, but they always look majestic and mysterious.

There is no need for a guide while exploring the Tallgrass Prairie, but do bring snacks, and a cellphone for the unlikely event that you should get a flat tire. The preserve is very close to Pawhuska, OK, but at 30,000 acres it is vast, and you should be prepared to let the bison be your guide and not worry about the next meal or car troubles. There is a hiking trail at the preserve headquarters if you want to stretch your legs after your journey.

Since you are planning a trip from some distance, you might want to talk to the staff at the Preserve Headquarters to see if they can send you some information or answer any additional questions you may have. Their number is 918-287-3623.

Kanni Huang      9:59 PM Sun 1/16/2011

Hi Kathryn,
I am planning to go to Oklahoma in the beginning of March. I would like to know that whether March is a good time to visit Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and observe bison. Do I need a guide to observe the wildlife there? I would appreciate if you could kindly reply to me.


Kanni from Michigan

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