By Alyssa Nyberg - The Nature Conservancy
When the bison arrive at Kankakee Sands, I don't know what I'll do first. Jump for joy, grab a camera and start photographing, or just sit down and watch.
Bison are due to arrive at Kankakee Sands this fall. A small herd of 25 will be making the journey from a Nature Conservancy preserve in South Dakota, to our restoration here in Indiana. Once on site, the bison's job will be to help us manage 1,100 acres of our restoration by eating grasses, thinning out trees, and churning up the soil. Luckily, this is what bison do! Their natural behaviors will result in a greater number of wildflower species and bird species, too.
We are so excited to have bison at Kankakee Sands. This has been years in the making and it has taken much partnership and cooperation to make it happen. Thanks to everyone who has made this a reality, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Department of Natural Resources, and the donors who have made bison possible through their charitable donations.
In addition to our excitement about having bison at Kankakee Sands, we are excited to have you visit and see the bison for yourself. When you come, you will want to drive to the Bison Overlook Area, located off of CR 400 W. (See map)
Directions: To access the parking area of the Bison Overlook Area, take US 41 to CR 400 N. Turn west and drive one mile. Turn south on CR 400 W. The driveway to the parking area of the Bison Overlook Area will be on the east side of the road. It is a gravel driveway that will lead you to a gravel parking area.
From the parking area, there will be a short trail to the top of the famed Bogus Island, which is a good vantage point for viewing the bison. In the months to come, we will have signage along the trail about bison's role on the prairie as well as staff and volunteers on site to answer questions about bison.
When you visit, you'll want to bring binoculars. With 1,100 acres of pasture, there is no telling where the bison might be. Even if the bison aren't close to the viewing overlook, you can still enjoy the serene setting of the prairie in fall, with the colors of gold, yellow, brown and purple. Soon enough, the fall bird migration will be underway, so you can enjoy a wide diversity of birds as well. Bring a jacket as the prairie winds can blow strong and cold this time of year. Also bring sunglasses and/or a hat, for the prairie lacks trees and therefore shade.
Bison aren't just great for the prairie-they'll be great for Newton County too. With our herd of bison in place, we expect Kankakee Sands to be even more of a tourist destination. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase all the great things about Newton County: our restaurants, hospitality, local shopping and fantastic natural areas. Visitors need to know that our quiet and quaint Newton County is home to 86 rare threatened and endangered species. Wow!
But with all the excitement in the air, there are some very important things we must remember. Remember to never, never, never stop on our Newton County roadways to look at bison. Should you want to view the bison, please, for the safety of yourself and those around you, pull into a parking area.
When the bison arrive, let's all promise to stay safe, welcome visitors, and enjoy the beauty of the bison on the autumn prairie. Happy "bison-tennial" everyone!
The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands is 10,000 acres of prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois, open every day of the year for public enjoyment. The Nature Conservancy in an international, non-profit organization. For more information about Kankakee Sands, visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands or call the office at 219-285-2184.