Maxwell Wildlife Refuge

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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 call ahead to schedule a tram tour with the Friends of Maxwell for a close-up view of the bison (620-628-4455). Link to for more information on tours and special events.

2577 Pueblo Road
Canton,KS    67428
Area News - Updated: 08/04/2011

Area News

General Information
2577 Pueblo Road
Canton, KS    67428

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge (PDF 249.67 kB)

Manager: Cliff Peterson
Phone: 620-628-4592

Special Regulations
  • 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.
  • Firearm use by the public is allowed only at the Don Brown Memorial Shooting Range on the southeastern corner of the property (2680 Pioneer Road).
    • Hours of Operation: Sunrise to sunset. There is to be no shooting after sunset and before sunrise. 

Here is a complete list of Public Land Regulations or you can download the regulation summary.


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.

The Don Brown Memorial Shooting Range – though currently closed – is located on the very southeastern corner of the property (2680 Pioneer Road). It was created in early 1984, in memory of rural Galva resident Don Brown, who dearly loved the Maxwell Refuge and McPherson State Lake. Don was an avid outdoorsman and taught Hunter Education Classes because of his passion for children, hunting, and the local area. His untimely death at the age of 47 from an auto accident in October 1982, on a road near the refuge, was a tragedy and loss to all who loved him. The Brown family requested memorials be donated to a fund that would establish something in his memory that would live on honoring him and be beneficial to others who love the area as he did.

Maxwell Facilities
Maxwell Refuge Observation Tower
  • Type of Facility: Observation Tower
  • Location of Facility: N38 28.587 W97 27.513W
  • Click for more information

    25 feet high observation deck built on highest point near center of refuge

Don Brown Memorial Shooting Range
  • Type of Facility: Shooting Range
  • Location of Facility: N38 27.874 W97 25.725
  • Click for more information

    *NOTE: This range is closed, until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. To locate a shooting range nearest you, visit or call (620) 672-5911.

    100 yard public rifle/pistol range for sighting-in and practicing. Shotguns allowed only for patterning for turkey or sighting-in for deer slugs. No clay or skeet shooting allowed.

    Hours of Operation: Sunrise to sunset. There is to be no shooting after sunset and before sunrise. 

Maxwell Refuge Tour Center
  • Type of Facility: Information Center
  • This facility is ADA accessible
  • Location of Facility: N38 28.683 W97 27.118
  • Click for more information

    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.