...Once near extinction, buffalo are now a road trip away!

Claire Walter is an exceptional Colorado-based, award-winning writer. Her travel, food
and sports articles have been featured in The Robb Report, Skiing Magazine, the New
York Times and USA Today. Her list of credits and book titles are much too long to list
here, but you can check them out by clicking
here. asked to reprint her story about the American buffalo, and she
graciously allowed us to do so. Enjoy Claire's captivating tour!
From the brink of extinction, buffalo have made a
comeback. About 300,000 live on private ranches
and public lands in the United States.

Shaggy, dusty and lumbering, the buffalo seems an
unlikely emblem of America. Yet, travelers are thrilled
to see the huge beasts on the Great Plains or in the
Rocky Mountains.

There were more to see when the Indians hunted on
the continent's wide-open interior. An estimated 60
million American bison roamed the grasslands. But westward expansion, pioneers farming the
prairie and mass hunting brought the herds near extinction in the 19th century. Fewer than 1,000
head survived in isolated pockets in the U.S. and Canada.

Conservation in recent decades has enabled the buffalo to make a powerful comeback. About
300,000 of the animals live on private ranches and public lands in the United States.
It takes
only a little effort to plan a road trip that takes in places where you can see the beast
that is nearly as potent a national symbol as the bald eagle.

Bison thrive on almost all kinds of grass but require substantial range.

The delicate relief sculpture on the nickel coin only hints at how imposing
these animals are. At birth, bison weigh 40 to 50 pounds and graze their
way to considerable heft. A mature bull can weigh 2,000 pounds or
more, and a mature cow weighs about 1,100.

Buffalo viewing makes for a memorable visit to the American West. With buffalo an increasingly
popular alternative to beef, you may see them on ranches and open range from Texas to
Canada, but you are sure to find them in some parks and preserves and at a few commercial

    Wranglers work the herd during the annual buffalo
    roundup that takes place each autumn at Custer
    State Park.

    The 59,000-acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge,
    25 miles west of Lawton, Okla., is the country's oldest
    managed wildlife preserve. A century ago, the New
    York Zoological Society donated 15 of the then-rare
    animals to an expanse of mixed-grass prairie that
    was too rocky for plowing. The herd now numbers

    The refuge also hosts Texas longhorn cattle, elk,
    deer, coyotes and scores of bird, reptile and
    amphibian species. The visitor center at the
    intersections of state highways 49 and 115 provides
    an informative introduction to this remarkable refuge
    and can tell you where bison were sighted recently.

    One place where the animals often congregate is
    around the refuge's prairie dog town.

The Denver Mountain Parks Department maintains two long-established herds.

The Genesee herd, established in 1914, often is in sight along Interstate 70 in the western
exurbs. A tunnel under the highway near Exit 254 enables the animals to cross from one side to
the other. They range across 160 acres and often graze near roadside fences. Just pull over and

The Daniels Park herd south of the city roams freely a few miles from Interstate 25's Exit 188.
You're more likely to spot this herd in fall, when park officials feed them, than in summer, when
they wander to the far reaches of their 900-acre range.

With the importation of 13 cows and three bulls from Montana earlier this year, a new herd was
established at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, 11 miles northeast of Denver.
Routes of bus tours through the refuge change seasonally; not all visit this new herd, so check
when you make a tour reservation.

The Terry Bison Ranch is off Interstate 25 seven miles south of Cheyenne, Wyo. This sprawling
30,000-acre ranch, home to about 2,500 American bison, is a family-pleasing attraction. In
summer, a small train takes visitors to an enclosure where seeing buffalo up close is guaranteed.
Whenever the train stops, ranch hands put out the animals' favorite fodder and the bison

The ranch also offers a motorized tour to one of its herds. The train ride lasts 45 minutes to an
hour and operates only in summer. The one-hour tour is year-round.

Back in Wyoming, a herd of 20 head or fewer grazes at Hot Springs State Park just north of
Thermopolis. It may not be a large herd, but it's easy for visitors to see them. The best views are
from a bluff on the north end of town along U.S. Highway 20. Another small herd of captive bison
resides at 300-acre Bear River State Park, near Evanston.

Many of the 1,450-head herd in Custer State Park, S.D., are easily seen from the park's
roadways, especially along Wildlife Loop Road. The 42nd annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts
Festival will take place Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

During the high-action roundup Oct. 1, volunteers will herd the animals into corrals to be tested
for diseases. Some later are sold at auction, but most are released back into the park, which is
southwest of Rapid City.

Also in Wyoming, a herd of 20 head or fewer grazes at Hot Springs State Park just north of
Thermopolis. It may not be a large herd, but it's easy for visitors to see them. The best views are
from a bluff on the north end of town along U.S. Highway 20. Another small herd of captive bison
resides at 300-acre Bear River State Park, near Evanston.

Yellowstone National Park, in northwestern Wyoming and southern Montana, is the only place in
the continental U.S. where American bison have existed continuously since prehistoric times. Still,
by 1921, the park's bison population had dwindled to 23. The addition of 21 head from private
ranches re-established a viable herd. It has stabilized at between 3,000 and 4,000 animals in two
major herds that migrate seasonally.

Most visitors driving through the park see bison somewhere en route, but ask at the entrance
station or visitor center where they have been grazing recently to be sure you see them.

When wildlife managers want to establish a new herd or add animals to an existing herd for
viability, they often turn to the 18,350-acre National Bison Range, 50 miles north of Missoula,
Mont. In addition to 350 to 500 bison, it provides habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, black
bear, coyote and small mammals, plus more than 200 species of birds. The visitor center is
especially informative.

With stops for viewing and photography, the Red Sleep Mountain Loop drive takes about two

White buffalo hold a place in American Indian
lore. According to Sioux legend, the rare white
buffalo reconnected the Plains peoples with
their creator. Experts estimate that only one in
10 million wild buffalo is born white.

Miracle Moon was the first such sacred white
buffalo at Spirit Mountain Ranch, 20 miles north
of Flagstaff, Ariz., on U.S. Highway 180. She
and six of her white offspring at the ranch are
considered tangible signs of harmony.
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Photos courtesy of
South Dakota Tourism,
Superior Galleries
Spirit Mountain Ranch
Claire Walter grew up
in Connecticut,
studied in
Massachusetts and
lived in the New York
area before saddling
up and heading west
in 1988. In Colorado,
her vocation and her
avocations mesh

She has authored or
co-authored more than
a dozen books, mostly
on skiing and
Colorado travel, and is
a frequent contributor
to leading national and
regional magazines.

She is a member of the
American Society of
Journalists & Authors,
Society of American
Travel Writers, North
American SnowSports
Association, Les
Dames d’Escoffier and
the Colorado Authors'

Clair lives in Boulder,
CO, with her husband
Ral Sandberg.
For more
information about
Claire Walter, visit
Website and
travel blog!