The historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch overlooks the sweeping expanse of beautiful Lamar Valley. A cluster of log buildings marks the spot where from 1907 to 1952, the park ranched buffalo in order to increase the herd size. Though bison (or buffalo) once numbered 30-60 million across North America in the early 1800s, due to market hunting, poaching and a slaughter campaign by the U.S. Army, they were nearly extinct by the turn of the century. The population of wild bison in the U.S. dropped to less than 24 animals by 1903 and those few remaining bison lived in Yellowstone National Park.
The park brought in 21 captive bison from ranches to supplement the native herd. Bison were rounded up to winter in corrals and during bad weather, were fed hay that was grown in the bottomlands of the Lamar River across from the ranch. They grazed freely in the summer and as their numbers increased, the park culled the herd. The ranch operation ceased in 1952 when there were around 1000 bison and the park’s wildlife management philosophies had changed to allow more natural regulation.
Lamar Buffalo Ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the history of wildlife management and preservation of bison in the U.S. No facilities at the ranch are open to the general public, as today it is the site of educational offerings by the Yellowstone Association Institute and the National Park Service’s “Expedition: Yellowstone.”
The ranch is in the heart of peaceful Lamar Valley where wildlife watching is extraordinary. The bison grazing in the valley year-round are a testament to what people can do. Almost eradicating the animal and then bringing it back from the brink of extinction is truly a conservation success story.