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Bison Paddock

1250 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, California 94122 USA

Free to Visit
Open Now
Thu 5a-9p
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
    not Accepted
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“A herd of bison roaming downtown San Francisco!”

Although the name of this popular Golden Gate Park attraction suggests you will encounter a gang of buffalo, you will actually have the pleasure of viewing the behavioral patterns of the American bison. Located next to Spreckels Lake, pieces of history lumber across an enclosed field of green. Since the 1890s, the bison have become a treasured tradition about the park, serving as a remembrance of the illustrious Wild West. In the past, an assortment of animals, including bears, goats, and elk, roamed about a free-range environment. Small herds of bison also called Golden Gate Park their home. In 1890, a distinct bison cow and one bison bull were transported from the rolling Great Plains to the urban paradise of the Golden Gate Park. Hailing from parts of Wyoming and Kansas, the cow was named Sarah Bernhardt, while the bull was called Ben Harrison. The Park Commission beamed with pride as such possessions roamed about their land. At first, the bison were positioned east of where the new Academy of Sciences will stand. As time passed, some bison were transported to where they can be found today during 1899. Over the years, more and more bison residents began to find their way to the Golden Gate Park Buffalo Paddock, including three from the Yellowstone National Park in 1905. Before you knew it, the herd showcased 30 bison in 1918. Throughout the years, the herd overcame a bout of bovine tuberculosis, which led to the transfer of seven members of the Golden Gate Park family to a different location in San Francisco. Ironically, they were “exiled” close to the San Francisco County jail in San Bruno. The bison you see today at the paddock are actually descendants of 1984 birthday presents given to the mayor, Dianne Feinstein by her husband. By the time the bison of Buffalo Paddock first arrived in Golden Gate Park, they were close to becoming a majestic memory. Their meat, hides, and fur prompted years of greedy slaughter by European settlers. But through a successful captive breeding program, more than 100 calves were produced from the group residing at Golden Gate Park. In 1998, this allowed the total number of bison in North America to surpass the 200,000 mark. When it comes to your first time enjoying a visit to the Buffalo Paddock, you might be flabbergasted with the spectacle of these rather large creatures. Situated about John F. Kennedy Drive, the paddock is easily accessible when coming from the Anglers Lodge. To reach this entertaining attraction, you should head for the western end of the park, where a large fenced-in region holds the prized vision. This splendid sight is also located close to North Lake, as well as the corner of Chain of Lakes Drive East.

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Reviewed by
Anthony Arata

  • 121 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
November 09, 2017
Rated 3.0

Pretty cool getting to see bison in San Francisco of all places. Only 3 stars because they’re behind several gates which makes getting pictures of them difficult

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Reviewed by

  • 98 Reviews
  • 41 Helpful
May 31, 2015
Rated 3.0

A nice change of pace, seeing massive bison in the heart of San Francisco. When I went the bison were all huddled together in one small corner of the enclosure.

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Reviewed by
Natalie Akers

  • Road Warrior
  • 373 Reviews
  • 124 Helpful
May 26, 2015
Rated 5.0

If I wanted to get someone to move to SF, I'd take them to this part of the park. Only city I've ever visited where people don't even mention they have bison downtown. There's a hacked out path that will get you closer to the animals you could mountain bike or walk. Really beautiful but not meant necessarily as a zoo so it will come up unannounced and there's no incredibly good place to view them. Really have to get lucky!

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Bison Paddock

1250 John F Kennedy Dr
San Francisco, California
94122 USA


Open now until 9:00 pm
  • Sun - Sat: 5:00 am - 9:00 pm

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
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