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Oakley in Logan County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country

 
 
The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., November 12, 2012
1. The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker
Part of the center panel
Inscription.

The death knell of the buffalo sounded when men got to hunting them for their hides only.., and they did, recklessly, ruthlessly.
- William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody

There may have been as many as 30 million bison on the North American plains at their height. But after about 1840 their numbers began to decline. By 1880 only a few hundred survived. Why?

A three-hundred year climate cycle called "the little Ice Age" came to an end in the 1840s. The weather on the plains grew hotter and dryer [sic], and the prairie grasses grew more slowly. Before long, there were more buffalo than the land could support, and the herds grew smaller.

But Indian people still relied on the buffalo and killed up to 250,000 per year. Huge numbers of wild and domesticated horses, as many as 2 million, competed for rang. And by the 1850s and 1860s, habitat began disappearing to towns, farms, railroads, and livestock raising.

Finally, in the 1870s, world demand for leather -- and a nationwide economic depression -- brought thousands of out-of-work adventurers onto the plains as "hide hunters." Hunting pressures on the herds led to their near extinction.

Buffalo Bill, who began his career and gained notoriety by hunting buffalo to feed the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers and leading celebrated buffalo
Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1870s
2. Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker
[Caption reads] Buffalo mounts were sent back East in the promotion of the Kansas Pacific Railway which was laying tracks across the Great Plains, linking the Missouri River Basin with the Rocky Mountain west.
hunts for European royalty, later worked to save the buffalo, preserving a small herd of buffalo, of which many buffalo today are descendants.

The crusade to save the buffalo that began in the 1880s has been called the beginning of the modern conservation movement.

Buffalo Facts
Bison, or Buffalo? Both are correct. The scientific name is Bison bison. The first Europeans to see them described the American bison as boeufs, or cattle. The word grew into "buffalo," and it stuck.

Buffalo calves are reddish in color but look like the calves of domestic cattle. Full-grown bison stand over 6-feet high at the shoulder and weigh over a ton.

Beginning in the 1880s, people such as Buffalo Bill and Charles J. "Buffalo" Jones became conservationists. Cody had 20 or more in his Wild West show. Buffalo Jones raised buffalo on his ranch near Garden City, Kansas. Many of the bison grazing in national parks and grasslands are descended from those saved by Jones and Cody. Today there are more than 250,000 buffalo.

The giant herds were actually made up of many smaller groups of 100 or fewer. Female bison lead the herds to good grazing. Their special eyesight lets them "see" the nutrition in grass.
———————
Photos courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society [and] Buffalo Bill Historical Center,
Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, 1874
3. Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker
[Caption reads] R.M. Wright seated on pile [of buffalo hides], purchased some 250,000 hides.
Cody, WY
 
Erected by Wild West Historical Foundation and the Kansas Humanities Council.
 
Location. 39° 7.611′ N, 100° 52.156′ W. Marker is in Oakley, Kansas, in Logan County. Marker is on U.S. 83, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is in the kiosk adjacent to the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3083 US Hwy 83, Oakley KS 67748, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Early Exploration across Kansas (here, next to this marker); Inhabitants of the Kansas Plains (here, next to this marker); The Monument Rocks (here, next to this marker); Annie Oakley (here, next to this marker); Oakley: Birthplace of the Legend (here, next to this marker); The Great Buffalo Hunt (here, next to this marker); Buffalo Bill Cultural Center (within shouting distance of this marker); Logan County Sandstone (approx. 0.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Oakley.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .
1. Buffalo in Kansas. (Submitted on June 18, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Yellowstone Bison. (Submitted on June 18, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1910s
4. Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker
[Caption reads] The Last of the Plains men - [l-r] Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Jones

3. Buffalo Hunt, 1846. (Submitted on June 18, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. General Philip Sheridan on the Buffalo Hunters. (Submitted on June 18, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
5. Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones. (Submitted on June 18, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Animals
 
Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, circa 1880s
5. Photo on The Smoky Hill River Valley - Buffalo Country Marker
[Caption reads] Buffalo delivered by Buffalo Jones to Buffalo Bill Cody for his ranch in North Platte, Nebraska. Picture was taken near the present day junction of Hwy 83 and Hwy 40 in Oakley.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 503 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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