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Top Photos of a Year in America’s Serengeti

Assembling a large conservation area in the 21st century takes many sorts of people, from explorers, entrepreneurs, and biologists to philanthropists, community members, and volunteers. As we work to return the lands of the American Prairie Reserve to a wild, natural state, we learn a lot from all of these people. We also gain unique insights about natural places through photographers that use elements of light, movement, drama, and scale to make remote landscapes come alive for viewers around the world. 

These images remind me of the different lenses through which we experience the outdoors and how progress can be captured in a split second. As we push forward in a new year, I am grateful for the diversity of people that bring the Reserve to life, including the adventurous photographers that captured these special moments of 2014.

The Next Generation. Photo by Mike Kautz/Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation

Since 2005, Bison have roamed the northern plains of Montana on American Prairie Reserve. After ten years of bison restoration, scenes like this one are increasingly common. Newborn calves on the Reserve this spring will bring the herd to more than 500 animals.

With a complex vocabulary and dynamic social structure, prairie dog towns are one of the few places on the Reserve where silence is uncommon. Prairie dogs serving in the sentinel role help guard the town guard against intruders like badgers and rattlesnakes (and the occasional hiker) with high-pitched barks.

Hundreds of elk come together for their annual rut each fall. It’s a must-see wildlife spectacle that can easily be safely enjoyed on the neighboring Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. With this photo, you can almost hear the bellowing elk bull as sunset falls on the Missouri River.

Hiking in Big Sky Country brings visitors to a landscape that’s far from flat. This group heads up into the Missouri River Breaks, where the topography reveals geologic wonders… and dinosaurs on occasion!

Towering cliffs above the Missouri River are no match for the striking colors of fall. Reserve photographer Dennis Lingohr captured this remote scene after hiking through the historic Cow Creek and Cow Island areas, inholdings within the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Cow Island has a fascinating past, spanning hundreds of years of human history and animal migrations.

Like their Greater sage grouse neighbors, Sharp-tailed grouse put on exotic annual mating displays each spring in hope of attracting a mate. Their feet-stomping, tail-shaking dance is enhanced by the colorful purple air sacs on their necks.

About a foot of rain fell on the prairie this fall, flooding low-lying areas and washing out roads. During this time, photographer Morgan Cardiff was living on the Reserve as part of the Landmark adventure science program and captured this sunset scene looking across a new temporary wetland. Not pictured: hoards of reawakened mosquitoes. See Morgan’s full gallery on his website.

Tucked into the rolling hills of our Sun Prairie region, Kestrel Camp offers guests the chance to experience the grasslands with intimate nature experiences. Gib Myers, the Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, took this photo on a trip this fall, showcasing the true Big Sky feel of night on the prairie.