Maxwell Wildlife Refuge to add 320 acres to grounds

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton will be expanding by 320 acres with the recent acquisition of the historic Battle Hill pasture which lies adjacent to the 2,500-acre park.

The acquisition culminates a three-year effort by the Friends of Maxwell to purchase the acreage, which was privately owned by a McPherson resident.

“We’re really excited,” said Della Meier, tour director. “We’ve been interested in it for the past three years and it’s taken us that long to get all the details worked out.”

The pasture is located at the northeast corner of the present refuge, just north of Pueblo Road.

Battle Hill itself is the tallest elevation in the area. It got its name from early confrontations between Native Americans on the Kansas prairie, both peaceful and violent.

“It was the site of a lot of battles in the area between the different tribes that traveled through here,” Meier said. “It also was a kind of meeting point between tribes that would camp to the east and some that camped to the west.

“There’s been a lot of artifacts and things found in that area back in the earlier days,” she added.

The refuge will not take complete possession of the pasture for five years, when a grazing lease with the previous owner expires. In the meantime, fences will be built and trails formed as funding becomes available.

“It’s going to make a really nice addition to the refuge, where we’ll be able to go up on Battle Hill and look all around,” Meier said. “It’s a pretty good sized hill and we’ll be able to see a long way off. We’re anxious to get a trail put up in there and take some people out there.”

She said the additional acreage will give the animals on the refuge more room to roam. Managers might also increase the size of the buffalo herd by a few animals.

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, through the efforts of Friends of Maxwell and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, has become one of McPherson County’s biggest attractions for tourists and local visitors.

Other projects at the refuge include construction of new buffalo-handling facilities scheduled to be completed by Nov. 15, the date of the annual buffalo auction, and construction of a new tour center building to begin this summer.

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