Anywhere he wants to. Or, as my 13-year-old grandson put it, "Any time a buffalo wants to go to the playground, he gets to be first in line at the slide."
This conclusion might not be scientifically researched, but it is based on personal observation.
On a 100-plus degree day in the Black Hills, we stopped at Legion Lake. I was sitting with my toes in the water on the opposite side of the small lake from the beach, which was crowded with shrieking, splashing kids. On the playground beyond the beach, a few more kids were playing on the swings and slides.
All at once, a hush fell over the swimming area. Well, not really. The noise level changed pitch a little, though. I looked up and saw the cause—a buffalo bull near the edge of the water. He had apparently just come out of the trees beyond the lake. Huge head bobbing with every ponderous step, he was striding toward the beach with the implacable air of a large critter who goes anyplace he damn well pleases.
Disregarding the lesser beings all around him, he marched across the grassy area between the beach and the playground equipment. The kids at the top of the slides and ladders stayed put. Most of the people on the beach, though, seemed unconcerned as they watched the buffalo go by just a few feet away. Most of the kids in the water kept right on shrieking and splashing.
Personally, I would have been dog-paddling for the far side of the lake like a Malamute out to win the Iditarod. On a hot day, a buffalo isn't going to stay out of the water just because he can't find a Speedo to fit him.
The bull got to the far side of the playground without running over any innocent out-of-state toddlers. By that time, a park ranger in a pickup had driven up to show the buffalo, "This beach ain't big enough for all of us, buddy." With some encouragement from the vehicle, the burly beach bully kept on moving and disappeared into the woods.
For a little while. About 20 minutes later, he was back, wading into the water a little way from the beach. No mere pickup was going to keep him from quenching his thirst.
Note to all Black Hills visitors: Those "Buffalo are dangerous" signs? They mean it. A buffalo is not a nice, gentle cow. (As a matter of fact, your average cow isn't a nice, gentle cow, either. Those soft brown eyes are deceptive.)
No wonder that Dr. Brewster M. Higley, who wrote the words to "Home on the Range" back in the 1870's, was willing to let the deer and the antelope play but preferred the buffalo to roam. If one happens to roam onto the beach or the playground, it's wise not to challenge his right to play wherever he wants to. Even when the chips are down, the buffalo is always going to win.