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Contrary to popular urban myths, Oklahoma is not all rolling prairie and cowboys on horseback. In fact, there is very little native prairie left, with the largest chunk of it located a “few” miles to the north of Pawhuska in Osage County. Here you will find the Nature Conservancy has created the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Here they have protected 39,650 acres of natural tallgrass prairie, making it the largest remaining section anywhere on earth. To get there from downtown Pawhuska, head north on Kiheka at the intersection of Highway 60 (at the corner of the triangle-shaped building) and then follow signs to the Preserve headquarters (approx. 18 miles).
It is well worth a visit to let yourself catch a glimpse of how a good portion of the Old West appeared before humankind’s drive to develop the land. Admittedly, there are still a few blots on the landscape, such as power poles, a small power substation, and a small oil well, and of course, the gravel roads. Despite all this, visiting here is an opportunity to, if only temporarily, escape the rat race. On the times I’ve visited, all I heard was the sound of the wind blowing; well, ok, other than the occasional car on the gravel roads, but you get my meaning.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “elephant in the room” or more precisely, the bison in the room. No visit here is complete without spending some time watching the 2,500 free-ranging bison herd going about their business. There are bison of all ages and sizes here and dependent on the time of year you visit. If you time it right, you’ll get to view the new arrivals and young calves as they follow mom around.
Originally published June 19, 2017