Big Basin & St. Jacob's Well

Big Basin entry sign
Big Basin entry sign - All photos by Jim Mason

This interesting feature on the High Plains of Kansas is on U.S. Highway 283 about 40 miles south of Dodge City.

For 1.4 miles, U.S. Highway 283 traverses the floor of Big Basin, which most likely resulted from salts dissolving several hundred feet below the earth's surface and causing subsidence of the earth above it.

St. Jacob's well
In Little Basin, about 0.5 miles to the east, is a spring known as St. Jacob’s Well.  From a distance, the spot appears to be an oasis of cottonwood trees.  It is surrounded by a fence made of limestone posts and barbed wire, which keeps the buffalo out and the water clear.  A path leads down to the water's edge from the parking lot on the bluff above.

A winter visitor to this unique area may have the place all to him or herself!
Mike Blair of Kansas Wildlife and Parks narrates this March visit to the site.
For more videos from this series, see the KDWP website.

Tracks indicate the value of permanent water to the wildlife of the area.  This site preserves mixed grass prairie that is rich with wildflowers during spring.  Western meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows are common during the nesting period.  Collared lizards and six-lined racerunners sun on exposed rocks.

Bachelor bison bull

The most visible animals of the area are bison, which dot the distant hillsides or sometimes roll in the dust in the middle of the access road.  These animals can be unpredictable; stay in your vehicle if they are close.  Many bison wear identification tags in their ears.

Bachelor bulls keep apart from the herd, like this one who was spotted lying down in a wallow.

Windmills provide additional water sources for the bison.

Big Basin
The Old West lives on at Big Basin.

bulletNo facilities

Camping icon Camping not allowed.

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Trail icon No developed trails.  A walk around the roads beginning at the entrance is a 5 mile round trip.  WARNING: Bison roam freely within this area.  It is highly recommended to drive the roads first to locate the animals before leaving the safety of the car.

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Big Basin map

Location in Kansas

Directions: From Minneola (21 miles south of Dodge City) travel 12 miles south on U.S. 283 to the intersection of U.S. 160. Continue south from this intersection, following both highways 3.2 miles to a roadside information sign describing Big Basin and the bison.  Continue south another 0.6 miles to the entrance gate on the east side of the road.  It is 1.7 miles from the highway to St. Jacob's Well (blue dot).

For the Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of this location is the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.  Contact them at (620) 227-8609 if you have specific questions about use or management of the site. 1,818 acres
You may download the KDWPT brochure on Big Basin from their web site.

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The Natural Kansas web site © 2011 by
the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

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