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Yes, There’s White Bison At Botna Bend Park

Ask three people about Botna Bend Park, and you’ll hear three different reasons to visit the tiny park in southwest Iowa. My introduction to the park was is annual maple tree tapping event, but others may tell you about the camping, the nearby Nishnabotna River, and one of the more unique residents of the park, the white bison.

Two bison - one being the famous white bison - at Botna Bend Park in Hancock

Read on for all the reasons to visit Botna Bend Park in Hancock, Iowa.

Quick facts about Botna Bend Park

Botna Bend Park is located at 42926 Mahogany Road in Hancock. Like the town itself, it’s fairly small — 119 acres — and definitely quiet. The West Nishnabotna River flows through the park, with some campsites having a view of it. For many people, it’s an ideal camping getaway.

There is a park admission fee of $3, unless you have an annual Pottawattamie County Park Pass.

It’s a unique park that’s home to the area’s only herds of bison and elk. Their pastures are enclosed, don’t worry.

A lone bison roaming an enclosure at Botna Bend Park

The herds have been a staple of Botna Bend Park since the 1960s. They aren’t huge — usually there are about a dozen in each herd — but they are fascinating to watch. Keep an eye out for the resident white bison!

Tip: Plan a visit in the spring for the chance to spot a new calf.

Things to do at park

Being situated next to a river, there are a few water activities that come to mind for visitors.

  • Fishing: The common catch of Botna Bend Park are flathead catfish and carp.
  • Paddling: There’s river access points to the West Nishnabotna River Water Trail. To schedule a float trip by tube, or to canoe or kayak, contact Rubber Duck Outfitters, located inside the park. Float trips are a seasonal activity there, and depends on the water level of the river.
A view of the West Nishnabotna River from the shoreline at Botna Bend Park

Other activities include:

  • Disc Golf: There’s a nine-hole disc golf course that begins in the south end of the park. Bring your own discs or check with park staff for a set to borrow.
  • Volleyball: Bring your own ball.
  • Basketball: Bring your own ball.
  • Horseshoe pits: Bring your own horseshoes.
  • Archery Range: Bring your own bow and arrows. The archery range is on the eastern edge of the park, and it includes 15-, 20-, 30- and 40-yard targets.
  • Playground and nature playscape
  • Trails: There are some walking trails in the park, but don’t come expecting a big hike or anything.
  • Adventure Packs: If you’ve got a little one with you, check out an Adventure Pack at the lodge for free. Each includes animal cards, track identification cards, a cloud shape chart, binoculars, kaleidoscope, bug box, compass, thermometer, and nature books. We used one when hiking at Hitchcock Nature Center (also a Pottawattamie County Park) when our son was a toddler and he loved it.
  • Camping: There are both RV campsites and tent camping at the park.
  • Lodge: If you’re hosting a big group, the lodge can be reserved for the day.

Annual events at Botna Bend

There are a few annual events you can count on occurring at Botna Bend Park:

March: Bundle up for annual Maple Tree Tapping events held in early March each year. Truth be told, I prefer enjoying the end product during the pancake feed than watching the tapping take place. Included with park admission.

September: The sap collected from the silver maple trees in March gets made into maple syrup and served for breakfast on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Breakfast is free, but free-will donations are accepted. You can buy some of the park’s syrup while you’re there.

November: Bison Fest celebrates National Bison Day. In 2022, the event will be held on Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s free with park admission and activities include:

  • Atlatl and bison chip throwing;
  • Bison wool spinning
  • Hay rack rides
  • Storytelling
  • Crafts
  • Fossil finding demonstration
  • Prairie hike

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