Monday, March 9, 2015

Elk & Bison Prairie, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Bull Elk grazing on the prairie
Elk & Bison Prairie, Land Between the Lakes

Another great attraction at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL) is the Elk & Bison Prairie. Located near the southern end of the 170,00 acre land peninsula, near the Golden Pond Visitor's Center and Highway 68/80 interchange, sits this fenced prairie of 700 acres. A small fee of $5 per vehicle is charged for entrance, no motorcycles allowed, and  bus rates are available. 

Bull Elk and Cow resting 
Bull Elk 
Drive a 3.5 mile loop through the prairie, look and listen for the wildlife. Elk & Bison can be hard to spot and are not always near the road, although I've had to drive through the Bison herd on more than one occasion. It does give you the close up experience you think you want but when the adolescents started to play I became nervous, it wouldn't take much from one to total a Malibu. The Bison didn't care about rules of the road and headed the wrong way down the one way loop, I breathed a sigh of relief as I headed the correct way and out of the herd. 

Once further down the loop we spotted the Elk herd, nestled on a hillside. We pulled to the side, leaving room for other cars to pass, and watched the herd before they moved off toward another area of the prairie. We continued on the loop hoping to catch them as they emerged on the other side of the wooded area in the loop center but we encountered the Bison again. Once again I had to pick my way through them, dodging around one and then another two. Finally I had gotten through the herd but for one and he stood directly in my path. There was no going around, he stood directly in the middle of the road, and just stared at my car as if going around was to much effort. I sat and waited patiently, the Bison waited as well and we were at a standoff. Several minutes passed before the thing relented his course and gave me the right of way. 

Bison mulling about
A young Bison scratches himself on an informational
plaque stand on the prairie
There are informative areas, as pictured above, but it is against the law to approach them when wildlife is near, any animal when threatened or scared can be dangerous if not deadly.

 Many people may not be aware that the herd here in Land Between the Lakes was used to repopulate The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and now visitors there can see Elk roaming free. I myself had the pleasure of stopping for the herd to cross the main highway in Cherokee, N.C. When we stopped at the Oconaluftee Visitor's Center we were asked by the Ranger on duty where we lived and when told he asked if we had come to check on our Elk with a chuckle. I have a great love for both places and now they are connected, hopefully forever.

Wild Turkeys roam the prairie

When driving through the prairie Elk & Bison won't be all you find. Turkey abound in LBL and the prairie is no exception, large flocks can be seen pecking their way through the tall grass. Birds of every kind can be found and an occasional Eagle maybe seen flying above. 

When you explore Kentucky and the Elk & Bison Prairie I advised you to stick to all laws and recommendations. They are in place to protect the public and the wildlife. We must have respect for both nature and the laws of man.

Happy Exploring and Hiking!

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