Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve 15316 Co Rd 4201
Pawhuska, OK 74056

Phone: 918-287-4803
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Description

The Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie on Earth, spanning 40,000 acres. The tallgrass prairie is a complex environment harboring a rich diversity of plants and animals. The current 40,000-acre expanse began with an initial purchase of the historic Barnard Ranch of 29,000 acres in 1989 by The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization. The Conservancy invites the public to enjoy the scenic drive and hiking trails.

This scenic route on public county roads takes visitors through the heart of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and through adjacent private ranches. Starting and ending in Pawhuska, the complete drive is approximately 50 miles, and takes about two hours at a leisurely pace with time for stopping.

The Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie on Earth, spanning 40,000 acres. The tallgrass prairie is a complex environment harboring a rich diversity of plants and animals. The current 40,000-acre expanse began with an initial purchase of the historic Barnard Ranch of 29,000 acres in 1989 by The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit conservation organization. The Conservancy invites the public to enjoy the scenic drive and hiking trails.

This scenic route on public county roads takes visitors through the heart of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and through adjacent private ranches. Starting and ending in Pawhuska, the complete drive is approximately 50 miles, and takes about two hours at a leisurely pace with time for stopping.

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is a haven for watchable wildlife. The diversity of grassland and forest is home to over 210 species of birds. Other wildlife includes white-tailed deer, bobcats, armadillos, beavers, woodchucks, badgers, coyotes and more. The stars of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve are the free ranging bison who were reintroduced to the area once it became a preserve. The 2,700 American bison are now part of one of the largest herds in the country. The iconic bison can often be photographed and observed from the road.

Drive the 15 miles of road through the bison unit and visit the preserve headquarters and gift shop. There are four scenic turnouts, picnic locations, a self-guided nature trail, a two mile hiking trail and a historic 1920 ranch bunkhouse with public restrooms. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk.

Please observe the following guidelines when visiting: Bison are dangerous. Only observe and photograph them from your car. Stick to the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb the soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers. Dogs are not allowed at all. The preserve harbors ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to the disturbance of a dog's presence. No bicycles or motorized vehicles are allowed as they trample native plants and research sites. No hunting, camping or campfires are allowed in the preserve. Groups of 10 or more should call ahead to plan a visit. Bring a trash bag and leave no litter along the trails. Please report any problems you see in the preserve that do not follow these rules including camping, plant removal, hunting and off-road vehicle damage.

The prairie puts on a different show for every season and each has its own unique beauty:

Spring/Summer:

By mid-May, 600-700 bison calves are frolicking the prairie.

Mid‑May through mid‑June, wildflowers cover the fields with blankets of color. Though wildflowers bloom throughout the warm months, they peak in spring, with another fine showing late summer.

Prairie chickens boom at sunrise from late March through early May.

During the warm months, migrating neotropical species, such as the Dickcissel and Scissor‑tailed flycatcher, are seen frequently.

Signature grasses such as big bluestem and switchgrass appear in April, begin producing seed in late July, and continue to grow through September.

Fall/Winter:

By September the big bluestem and switchgrass reach heights of 6 to 8 feet with a few patches stretching to 10 feet. When trees turn to their rich autumn colors, so do the grasses.

Rough‑legged and Red‑tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers and both Bald and Golden Eagles are common sights during the fall and winter. You also may see deer, coyotes or bobcats roaming the prairie.

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  • Facility Amenities: Credit Cards Accepted, Gift Shop, Picnic Area, Restrooms

  • General Information: Free admission

  • Group Amenities: Bus/Motorcoach Parking

  • On-site Activities: Hiking, Watchable Wildlife

  • Tour Information: Self-guided tours

Day

Open

Close

Sunday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Monday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Tuesday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Wednesday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Thursday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Friday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

Saturday

7:00 am

7:00 pm

The preserve is open every day from dawn to dusk.
The gift shop and visitor center is open from March 1 through December 15 from 10:00am to 4:00pm, typically every day.

There is no charge for admittance.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the pricing listed above, prices are subject to change without notice.

From Hwy 60 (Main Street) in downtown Pawhuska, drive N on Kihekah Ave approx 17 miles. This road becomes the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Dr.

Primary Contacts:

Harvey Payne




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From Dawhn on 03/26/16

The roads in the preserve are all gravel, if I had known this ahead of time I don't know that I would have taken this drive. The bison were impressive. I think it would have been a little bit prettier if we had gone in another month or so when it will be greener.


From Shane McCurdy on 06/30/15

Really enjoyed this drive! Lots of beautiful lookouts, plenty of wild flowers and scissortail flycatchers to enjoy while you search for bison. We were surrounded a few times as the bison will cross right in front of you if you stop and watch. Plenty of calves around too! Gift shop -which is very family friendly- and facilities are pretty nice and well maintained, and are a nice break from sitting in the car. Though they don't really have food, other than candy bars and a vending machine, so plan accordingly. The roads are all gravel, so take your vehicle with the best ride quality, you'll be glad you did. Keep an eye out for people who are distracted while driving, we almost got ran into by someone. We went on a Saturday and there were just enough people around that you felt safe, but not to the point where it felt crowded or touristy.


From Ashley Gipson on 05/04/15

A very lovely excursion. The bison are numerous and the closest we found to the road were about 20 yards away. The scenic lookouts were very pretty, allowing you to take in the rolling hills and sheer emptiness of the land. It's easy to take something like that for granted. There was an area with three different hiking trails that the bison could not go, which were a lot of fun. My only complaint is that you had to go backwards the way you came once you reached the end of the preserve. It would have been nicer if the road wound about.


From TravelOK.com Staff on 04/09/15

Shawna, yes you are more than welcome to visit at any time from dawn to dusk. Please call 918-287-4803 for more information. Best wishes and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Shawna on 04/09/15

We're considering a visit there this weekend. Are we able to just show up and take a leisurely drive through? We just want to see buffalo, in nature!


From TravelOK.com Staff on 10/30/14

Amanda, unfortunately we don't know of any events happening at the Tallgrass Prairie this Saturday. They do have an official website, which you can see by clicking the orange button at the top of this page. You're also more than welcome to call them at 918-287-4803. Best wishes and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Amanda Winn on 10/30/14

Saturday is National Bison Day, do you have any activities going on at Tallgrass Prairie? Just trying to find if you have a site with any more updates? Thank You!!


From Susan Johnson on 07/15/14

We were there on 7/12/14 and really enjoyed it.. The only problem was that the gift shop was closed.


From TravelOK.com Staff on 04/04/14

Debbie, please give the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve a call at 918-287-4803, and they will be able to answer any questions you might have. Best wishes and thanks for using TravelOK.com!


From Debbie on 04/04/14

When is the best time to catch the wild flowers in bloom on the prairie and baby buffalo? Any special tours available or recommended for nature photographers?


From TravelOK.com Staff on 03/17/14

Dalia, please give the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve a call at 918-287-4803, and they will be able to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for using TravelOK.com!


From dalia on 03/15/14

Would it be a good idea to take my 5 kids?


From TravelOK.com Staff on 03/13/14

Carrie, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is such a unique area, and there is always something new to see. There are 700 plant species, over 300 bird and 80 mammal species on the preserve. You'll have the chance to spot prairie chickens at sunrise from late March through early May. Other sights may include hawks, eagles, deer or, of course, bison roaming the prairie. If you'd like more information to plan your trip, please call 918-287-4803. Have a great trip and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Carrie on 03/12/14

Thinking of taking a drive up there for spring break next week. Is this a good time of year to go? Anything to see right now?


From TravelOK.com Staff on 02/18/14

Smith, unfortunately we don't have a detailed map with hiking or trail information. We do have a map of the preserve that you can download by clicking 'View Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Map' on the right side of this screen. If you have any questions, please call 918-287-4803. Best wishes and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Smith on 02/14/14

Is there any hiking or tail maps?


From Margret on 01/20/14

Just spoke with K & she informed me that the preserve is open year round but the visitors center & gift shop is only open between March-mid December. Bummer


From TravelOK.com Staff on 09/06/13

Mark, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is open year-round, but the gift shop and visitor center do close seasonally between November and March. To find out the best time and place to spot buffalo in January, please call 918-287-4803. Have a great day and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Mark Napper on 09/05/13

Hello, I'm wondering if the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is open in January and would there be much chance of seeing buffalo at that time of year. Thanks so much.


From TravelOK.com Staff on 06/13/13

Mary Ellen, according to the staff at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, leashed pets are allowed in the preserve. Best wishes and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Mary Ellen Hobaugh on 06/12/13

Are dogs on leashes permitted?


From TravelOK.com Staff on 11/01/12

Porter, unfortunately there is no camping at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. However, Osage Hills State Park is located about 30 miles away and offers cabins, tent and RV sites. Best wishes and thank you for using TravelOK.com!


From Porter Rigby on 11/01/12

Is there camping?


From Jean Lancaster on 04/21/12

I've been to the Preserve numerous times since it was first opened and always love to see it. In March we drove up and were terrorized by trucks full of gravel flying both ways on the gravel and dirt road. I am a country girl and have seen my share of dirt roads but these are huge trucks and traveling at a dangerously fast rate of speed over roads not built for such speed. The dust and gravel was flying so thick that we couldn't see the road more often than when it cleared where we could see. The trucks seemed not even to notice our car. We finally arrived at the old ranch headquarters and really enjoyed the place. Many improvements had been made since I was here, and many more buffalo could been seen. It is a crying shame that the experience was ruined for us by the flying gravel and dust. My car had to be taken to the shop for repairs after being hit by the flying gravel. Even the undercarriage was affected. Can't the trucking company be asked to drive more slowly when people are driving through the Preserve? I thought it was made to preserve the animals and that the public was welcome to see it. Maybe we have been misinformed. I have supported the Preserve locally and the other sites as well, and I am truly disappointed in this turn of events. I have been there at least 15 times over the years and have never seen this before. Is this another example of oil runs Oklahoma and nothing else matters?


From Alice Benavides on 04/18/12

I've been to the Tallgrass Prairie a couple of times and I love the peaceful beautiful of this prairie. It is truly the land where the buffalo roam.


From James Richmond on 04/10/12

I was raised on the Preserve back in the 60's, when it was the Chapman and Barnard Cattle ranch. The stories I could tell of the daily activity there. We loved growing up on that ranch and have been back several times. Beautiful country and well worth visiting.


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