Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
The refuge is located 6 miles north of Canton, in the very southeastern tip of the scenic Smoky Hills, an area of large rolling hills. Principal vegetation is a warm-season mixed grass prairie with many species of grasses and forbs. The dominant grass species are big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, switchgrass, and sideoats grama. Forbs are abundant and numerous clumps of native sand plum and smooth sumac are scattered throughout the area. Soils are mostly moderately deep sandy loams. Principal management techniques used on the area are prescribed fire and grazing by bison and elk, including herd management to maintain proper grazing levels. Primary use of the area is wildlife viewing. The Maxwell Refuge is the only location in Kansas where public herds of both bison and elk can be viewed in a native prairie environment. It is home to the state's largest public herd of bison. Visitors may view on-their-own from the road and the observation tower or schedule a tram tour with the Friends of Maxwell for a close-up view of the bison. Link to http://www.maxwellwildliferefuge.com/ to make reservations and for more information on tours and special events.
- Off-road vehicle use is prohibited.
- Visitors must remain inside their vehicles on the portion of the road that passes through the bison/elk enclosure. Where there is a fence along the road, visitors may park on the edge of the road and exit their vehicles for wildlife viewing.
- No camping or fires are allowed on the refuge. All camping must be done at McPherson State Fishing Lake, which adjoins the refuge on the west end.
- Fireworks are prohibited on the area.
- Alcohol and cereal malt beverages are also prohibited.
- Take all trash with you when you leave.
- No hunting is allowed on the refuge.
In 1943, the Henry Maxwell estate donated 2.560 acres (4 sq. mi.) of land to the Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission for the creation of a wildlife refuge dedicated to bison and other prairie species. Of that area, a little over 300 acres was designated to be used for the construction of a public fishing lake and the remainder fenced to hold bison and elk. Bison and elk herds were initiated on the refuge in 1951. The primary use of the area is wildlife viewing.
- Type of Facility: Observation Tower
- Location of Facility: N38 28.587 W97 27.513W
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Built in 1956, the observation tower was recently removed after reaching the end of its safe use lifespan and will be replaced with a new viewing structure in the near future.
- Type of Facility: Information Center
- This facility is ADA accessible
- Location of Facility: N38 28.683 W97 27.118
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The Friends of Maxwell give guided tram tours that go out onto the prairie for a close view of the bison herd. Call ahead to schedule a tour: 620-628-4455 Tour center has displays about prairie wildlife and nearby historic Santa Fe and Chisolm trails.