By 1915 more than 800,000 seedlings had been planted on approximately 1,000 acres of the National Forest property. Although the project was considered a failure, a small portion of the original forest can still seen in the northwest corner of our middle pasture. At this location, a few surviving trees planted by the work crews of the early 1900’s remain as a reminder of the Kansas National Forest.
While the property has seen many changes in its nearly 100 yrs of existence, the bison have remained the primary attraction for visitors. Bison were first re-introduced on the range in October 1924 when one bull and two cows arrived from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.
In 1995, KDWP and the Finney County Convention & Tourism Bureau worked together to establish the Friends of the Sandsage Bison Range with a main purpose to develop and sustain a tour system, making the facility more accessible to the general public. It is through the friends group that the various tours and events offered at the range are made possible. Members of the friends group have found tremendous value in the preservation of the prairie at the bison range and many visitors have been able to appreciate and learn about this amazing property as a result.
Sandsage Prairie and a history of the refuge...
Located in the sandsage prairie, the bison range remains one of the few tracts of native sandsage prairie not converted to irrigated cropland. The presence of several tall grass species (i.e. sand bluestem, giant sandreed and sand lovegrass) and sand sagebrush makes this southern plains ecosystem truly unique. Interesting critters that call the sandsage prairie home include the lesser prairie chicken, spotted ground squirrel, kangaroo rat, scaled quail, black-tailed jack rabbit, mule deer, and western hognose snake.
The Bison Range was established in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson granted 3,021 acres of the Kansas National Forest holdings to the State of Kansas for use as a game preserve. Another 649 acres has been added to the original land grant bringing the property to its current size of 3,760 acres.
Prior to state ownership the bison range was included in the federally owned Kansas National Forest. The Kansas National Forest project began in 1905 as a 30,000 acre public reservation called the Garden City Forest Reserve. The reserve was established on a five year trial basis with the purpose of providing a place for experimental tree planting to determine which species of trees were most suitable for propagation in the Great Plains. In 1908 another 272,387 acres of sandsage prairie located south of the Arkansas River and west to the Kansas-Colorado border were added to the reserve.