When my husband went on a vacation to Colorado about four years ago, I was so excited to get to see a herd of buffalo that live in a Denver city park. Little did I know there is a herd living just a few miles from my home!
The buffalo roam a large pasture at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the physics laboratory in Batavia that is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. I just heard about them last month from Tracy Richter – one of our valued contributors here at GWYM. Yesterday turned out to be a perfect day for my daughter and me to check them out when I was eager to find something free and low-key we could do to get us outdoors in the sunshine.
But first .. what are buffalo (or more correctly, bison) doing in Batavia? According to Fermilab’s website, the lab’s first director bought a male bison and four females to Fermilab in 1969 to help “recognize and strengthen Fermilab’s connection” to its “prairie heritage.” A couple of years later, the Illinois Department of Conservation gave the lab 21 more bison – the descendants of those first animals are what you’ll see at Fermilab now.
Having passed Fermilab countless times and seen some security measures and signs from the road, I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to get on the campus. But it was actually very easy. Fermilab's grounds are open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (from mid-October to mid-April) and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the year. Here’s a map detailing the areas that are open to the public, and you can click here to check the current status of the access to Fermilab – to make sure it hasn’t become more stringent since my visit.