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Maxwell Wildlife Refuge: Where the deer and bison play

Kansas Tourism: Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton, Kan., is a haven for wildlife conservation on the Plains.

January 5, 2024

3 Min Read
bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Canton, Kan.
BISON ROAM: Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton, Kan., is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the state, working to preserve Kansas’ natural heritage of bison and other wildlife. Photos courtesy of Kansas Tourism

by Colby Sharples-Terry

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton, Kan., stands as a testament to the state’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage. Spanning more than 2,500 acres of diverse landscapes, this refuge offers visitors a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the beauty of Kansas’ wildlife in its unspoiled habitat.

Maxwell holds the distinction of being one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the state. Originally created to protect and rehabilitate bison herds, the refuge has evolved into a haven for a wide array of plant and animal species. The commitment to conservation and education is palpable as soon as visitors set foot on the refuge.

A main attraction at Maxwell is the thriving bison herd that roams freely across the expansive grasslands. These majestic creatures, once on the brink of extinction, have found a safe haven at Maxwell. Visitors can embark on guided tours that provide a unique opportunity to witness these iconic American mammals in their natural environment.

Bison in field with visitors viewing them

The sight of a massive bison grazing against the backdrop of the Kansas prairie is an awe-inspiring experience that transports visitors back to a time when these animals freely roamed the American wilderness.

In addition to the bison, Maxwell is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including elk, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and various bird species. Bird-watchers will be delighted by the numerous bird species that call Maxwell home, making it a prime destination for ornithological enthusiasts.

Related:Sold! Buyers bid on bison

Explore further

If you are looking to experience the preserve at a leisurely pace, the refuge is open 24/7 for self-guided driving tours. There is also an observation tower for those interested in wildlife watching; just don’t forget to pack your binoculars.

The refuge also prioritizes education and environmental awareness. Maxwell Wildlife Refuge's Visitor Center serves as a hub for learning, featuring exhibits and interpretive displays that highlight the importance of wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to provide information and answer questions, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

For those interested in photography, Maxwell offers a wealth of opportunities to capture the beauty of the Kansas prairie and its inhabitants. The changing seasons bring different colors and moods to the landscape, making it an ideal location for capturing stunning images of wildlife and nature.

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and Bison Tour is found along the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway. When you travel the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, you follow in the steps of Native Americans, explorers and pioneers as they sought food, shelter, adventure and a better life.

People taking pictures of the bisons

Early traders followed the nearby Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico, 19th-century cowboys drove cattle along the Chisholm Trail, and huge herds of bison roamed the area. Today, you can find charming towns, eclectic shops and world-class art experiences along the way. Plan your other stops along the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway here.

Sharples-Terry is public relations and communications manager for Kansas Tourism. Kansas Tourism aims to inspire travel to and throughout Kansas to maximize the positive impacts that tourism has on the state and local communities. For more trip inspiration and to order a free Kansas Travel Guide, head to travelks.com.

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