I have visited the prairie at Natchusa for more years than I care to count. When I first wandered there in the 80’s, the only directions were paper plates with arrows. I think the prairie was huge — 400 acres. Gazing out from the top of the hill, I could see miles of tall grass waving in the wind. The only hint of modern times were the tall electric towers. I was young — able to walk the uneven terrain.
Fast forward 40 years. To say that I’m no longer young is an understatement. Natchusa has increased in size — more than 4000 acres. Three years ago, Bison were reintroduced to the prairie. The herd has grown, more land was set aside for their range. It is no longer possible to walk the acres of prairie.
The third Saturday of September is set aside as Autumn On The Prairie. Knowledgeable people donate their time for tours, demonstrations are scheduled, food is available. I have attended many third Saturdays over the years and I wanted to go. I knew that if my knees prevented my participation, I would be very upset.
Paying attention to my restrictions, I actually took a walking stick to help with the uneven terrain. We arrived early. I was surprised when I learned that a shuttle was available to take us from the parking lot to the entrance. I was impressed — changes had been made. There was a pump for water, a new sturdy bathroom — still chemical but spacious. The entrance now had an open roof with photos of the prairie and a history of its development. The pump, bathroom and entrance were brand new — just finished for the day.
Tickets were being given out for tours of the Bison. My husband got 140 and 141 for us. A shuttle was available to take us down to the Bison fence. Various carts were in service to take us out to the Bison. A person knowledgeable of the herd rode with each cart. The cart we were on had a ramp with a handhold. I COULD DO IT.
I will admit that I didn’t push myself to walk down or back up the hill. It was early in the day, the bison were curious — “Who were we?” — and came close enough to see them easily. We knew the temperature was climbing. The past few days had been in the 90’s with no wind. I was happy that we had not only arrived early but also got an early tour. So many people had arrived, more vehicles were pressed into service.
We stayed for a presentation by the group that saves hawks, falcons and owls. I gathered up my courage and walked up the hill along a path to the top of the hill. Signs were in place naming the various grasses and flowers. I didn’t press my ability and returned down the same path instead of walking through the tall grass.
Seeing the bison was interesting. An area in their habitat was fenced off so that the prairie without the Bison could be compared to their grazing land. Their area had tall flowers and short grass. The fenced in area had VERY TALL grass.
I was grateful that we went, grateful for the shuttles and VERY HAPPY that I was able to walk a tiny bit of the prairie. It was a beautiful day!