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Elk and Bison Prairie

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Home > The Elk and Bision Prairie

The Elk & Bison Prairie (EBP) is a restoration of a native habitat lost more than a century ago. Elk and bison have been reintroduced to this area and roam freely within a 700-acre enclosure. Numerous other wildlife species also thrive in the prairie, such as wild turkeys, a variety of birds, small game, and prairie mammals.

Visitors can enjoy the area via a 3.5-mile loop road. There are three interpretive stops along the route for visitors to learn a little more about the prairie ecosystem. View an Elk & Bison Prairie video! (courtesy RoundAbout U.)

TO VISIT   SCHEDULE

The Elk & Bison Prairie is located north of the Golden Pond Visitor Center off The Trace.

Elk & Bison Prairie GPS Coordinates:

N 36 47' 23.16” W 88 03' 13.0''

  HOURS: Dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
ADMISSION: $5 per car (entry cards may be purchased at the Prairie or any LBL facility; credit cards accepted). For commercial buses or vans, the fee is .50 cents per person and must be purchased at the Golden Pond Visitor Center. Check the Calendar of Events for scheduled van tours.
GROUP LEADERS: See Groups & Educators.

Please read our Elk & Bison Prairie regulations.

Motorcycles, bicycles, equestrian travel, and persons traveling on foot are prohibited from entering the Prairie.

Our Bugle Corps volunteers provide interpretive assistance to visitors, and strive to ensure the safety of our visitors and wildlife. For more information about the EBP Bugle Corps volunteer program and "Friends of LBL", click here!

The Story

ElkIt's 1795. A buckskin-clad Daniel Boone is trekking the hills of Kentucky. The landscape is a sea of chest-high grasses, dotted with clumps of oak and hickory trees. In the distance, a herd of bison graze, while elk nibble on woody shrubs.

Fast-forward 100 years. The large herds of bison and elk have been hunted out of the region. European settlers inhabit the land, suppressing the fires which for hundreds of years maintained the grassland. Forest now covers what was once prairie.

Another 80 years later, in 1975, LBL biologists are excited to discover a small patch of native prairie grass growing wild at LBL. It's further evidence of what many had long suspected: that western Kentucky and middle Tennessee once formed the eastern edge of a Great Plains ecosystem, which Native Americans maintained with the use of periodic fires. After setting small, "controlled burns" in the area, biologists are thrilled when, months later, prairie grasses spring up from the blackened earth. The seeds had been there all along, waiting for the fire's heat to provide germination!

BisonIn 1995, biologists began development of the EBP. Enclosing a 700-acre portion of forest and open lands, the plan was to re-establish an example of the original prairie habitat, complete with native plants and animals. This project demonstrates the complicated process of habitat renewal.

The Elk & Bison Prairie opened to the public in 1996. Bison and elk herds were introduced to the 700-acre enclosure, and biologists work continuously to maintain a careful balance between wildlife habitat needs and prairie recovery limitations.


Establishment of the Elk & Bison Prairie was a huge undertaking, made possible only through the cooperative efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). Numerous state and federal agencies, corporate sponsors, and many dedicated individuals supply additional funding, logistical support, and other assistance in an effort to continue the establishment of the prairie. Primary partners include the Land Between The Lakes Association (LBLA), Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Parks Canada, Federal Cartridge Company, Wildlife Forever, Outdoor Life Network, and Knight & Hale Game Calls. The USDA Forest Service took over management of LBL and the Elk & Bison Prairie in 1999.

If you are interested in volunteering at Land Between The Lakes or becoming a member of "Friends of LBL", click here.

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