Oh! Give me a home where the buffalo roam! Is there anything more beautiful than a herd of bison gently wandering across the plains of North America? Very few things spark joy in the hearts of Americans, but being in the presence of a Great North American Bison should be one of them.
LUCKY 8 RANCH
Tucked away in the hills beyond Steamboat Springs, CO in a little town called Oak Creek, is an incredible 3,000+ acre ranch, home to Colorado’s largest buffalo restoration project. The Lucky 8 Ranch has been family owned and operated since 2014 and hosts over 500 head of bison (and growing) along with horses, alpacas, llamas, and chickens. Lucky 8 Ranch is the only touring Buffalo Ranch in Colorado, so we are so incredibly fortunate to have this right in our backyard!
Lucky 8 Ranch shares with you a phenomenal personal experience with these magnificent creatures and showcases a simpler way of life here in rural Colorado. Individuals and groups can partake in a spectacular guided off-roading ATV (or seasonal snowmobiling) adventure. The tour features winding trails through herds of bison, driving through a creek valley floor, meandering through hay meadows, and summiting all the way up to stunning panoramic views of Routt County.
A unique and special experience, touring the bison ranch only takes about 3 hours and is an unmissable experience when travelling to Steamboat Springs. From mid-May until the end of October, the ranch offers a variety of tours including a 2-hour ATV Ranch Adventure that focuses more on the ranch, and the 3-hour ATV Bison Adventure that focuses on both the ranch and the animals. In the winter, Lucky 8 Ranch offers a guided 2-Hour Snowmobile Adventure with Bison Sightings, all contingent on weather conditions.
The ATV tour begins at the Visitor’s Center with a brief orientation, Q&A, history of the ranch, and a chance to browse through the unique handcrafted items available for purchase at the small gift shop. The ranch has clean facilities on property, so definitely use the restroom before the ATV tour, it’s a bumpy ride!
After drivers and passengers are set, the guides will ensure everyone has a helmet and knows how to operate the ATVs. The side-by-sides are incredibly easy to operate and anyone with a valid driver’s license is welcome to drive one. The tour encompasses the 3,000+ acre ranch, and gives riders an opportunity to get up close and personal with the herd. Get to know the land through the eyes of a ranch hand, as you bob and weave through the scenic rolling hills and endless panoramic views.
Looking for something to do in Steamboat Springs outside of an organized tour? Check out these great resources:
- 9 Best Hiking Trails in Steamboat Springs
- 5 Tips For Fly Fishing in Steamboat
- Tubing The Yampa River
- 4 Early Season Mountain Bike Rides
BISON (AKA BUFFALO)
Bison by nature are incredibly social creatures. The herds are historically led by one alpha female, as she chooses where the best grasses are, she leads the herd throughout the day. All bison have horns (both male and female) and are kept fully integrated together. Some bison can weigh up to 2200 lbs, and can reach a height over 6’ feet! Despite their size, bison can move pretty fast, reaching up to 40 mph. The lifespan of a bison can be 10-20 years, and sometimes even longer. Baby bison are born in springtime and are a red/orange color giving them the nickname “red dogs” or “red cows.” During calving season in May 2021, there were 41 babies on the Lucky 8 Ranch. So cute!
Ecologist Christian Samper called bison:
“an icon that represents the highest ideals of America: unity, resilience, and healthy landscapes and communities.”
A day at Lucky 8 Ranch celebrates the ideals of our North American heritage. The fact these bison still exist even at all is astounding. This magnificent animal was dangerously close to extinction at one point, and the efforts to bring them back is nothing short of a miracle. The Great North American Bison is the poster child of the restoration of an endangered species, representing one of the most substantial and significant wildlife success stories of all time!
Is it Buffalo or Bison? What’s the difference between the buffalo and the bison that are so symbolic of the North American Great Plains? The American Buffalo is not a true “Buffalo” (*think Water Buffalo of Southeast Asia.) Its closest relatives are the European Bison, or Wisent, and the Canadian Woods Bison. Scientifically, the American Buffalo is actually an “American Bison” and belongs to the Bovidae family of mammals (the same as domesticated cattle.) When French settlers moved to the area they called them “boeuf” the French word for beef, coining our more commonly used word “buffalo.” Thus, the names “buffalo” and “bison” are now used interchangeably.
The American bison was, at one time, possibly the most abundant large land mammal on earth. Just imagine, these animals shared time and space with both the Wooly Mammoths and Sabertooth Tigers! American Bison survived the Ice Ages, and sustained the indigenous people of North America generation after generation. In 1830, there were still an estimated 40-60 million buffalo roaming the Great Plains. Once an ecological keystone species, their migrations, grazing patterns, and behavior shaped the physical environment of North America. Bison were also an inherent part of the cultural heritage of many Native American tribes and were central to our expansion and development as a nation.
Bison once roamed the Great Plains in North America in numbers so great that early explorers could not count them. They were variously described as: “numbers-numberless,” “the country was one black robe,” and “the plains were black and appeared as if in motion.” However, intensive market hunting, commercial slaughter, and systematic extermination in the late 1800’s led to their near extinction.
By 1902, the entire wild bison population of North America had been reduced to fewer than two dozen animals. The once massive, free-ranging herds that engineered the landscape of the American West and supported Native civilizations for millennia were nearly obliterated by the early 1900s. Now, thanks to local ranchers and conservationists, like Lucky 8 Ranch, the bison population stands at upwards of 400,000 in North America.
From Ranch Owner Nick Osadchuk:
“They were on the brink of extinction. Many ranches like us want to bring the herd back to its historic numbers. These animals are near genetic perfection, standing the test of time.”
Ranchers across North America have devoted their time and energy to bringing back these amazingly durable animals. Through dedicated hard work, Lucky 8 Ranch is preserving the species and providing a space for the herd to flourish. According to the Lucky 8 Ranch mission statement, the ranch’s goal is, “The revival of a once endangered species and the reclamation of the American farmland, by providing a safe work environment and practicing Holistic Land Management while being environmentally conscious while involving the community.”
Lucky 8 Ranch has sourced some of their herd from the wild bison at Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the only place where wild bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times and their historic, ecological, and cultural significance is unparalleled in the region. After decades of population management and slow growth in numbers, wild Yellowstone bison were finally ready to return to their rightful place on the landscape of the American West. There is hope for the meaningful restoration of American bison to land across North America and Lucky 8 Ranch is doing their part.
Lucky 8 Ranch:
“We have sourced our bison from some of the best private and public herds in the country. Our herd has genetics from Grandpa, the 3000-pound bull, Chief Joseph, the most expensive bull ever purchased, Yellowstone National Park, and from one of the first conservation herds dating back to 1907 from the New York Zoological Park.”
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
Lucky 8 Ranch offers an incredible and unique experience through ATV/UTV/Side by Side tours, snowmobile tours, hay rides, ranch tours, private tours, and special events & weddings. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, looking for something to do with the family, want to spend time with the Great North American Bison, or are simply interested in the science of environmental sustainability, touring the Lucky 8 Ranch is an unmissable experience when visiting Steamboat Springs, CO.
*Complimentary shuttle service provided by Lucky 8 Ranch available at select times. Lucky 8 Ranch is located just 20 minutes from the Town of Oak Creek, 30 minutes from Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Ski Resort, and 40 minutes from the Hayden Airport.
Looking Forward To Your Next Adventure? Looking for somewhere to stay when traveling to the Lucky 8 Ranch? Check out the Top 6 Airbnb’s in Steamboat Springs