Are you looking for the Top 10 Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States?
Observing wildlife in America might be easier than you think. You don’t have to venture far away from your immediate environment to see wild animals. Whether you live in a small town or a big city, you can be sure to see various types of animals going about their daily lives.
Looking through your window, you can usually see different species of winged creatures flying around. Driving through the verges, you might have seen deer foraging or squirrels playing in trees. However, suppose you would like to see the “wild” part of wildlife. In that case, there is a vast number of national parks and reserves in the United States where you can observe the most elusive and phenomenal creatures in their pristine environment.
Even as natural habitats for endangered animals continue to dwindle worldwide, the National Park Service and the wildlife conservation efforts they put in place through the parks, refuges, and sanctuaries across the United States continue to protect and preserve wilderness for beasts of all kinds.
While it may be true that we have a long list of mega cities and industrialized towns, the vast majority of the country still consists of empty deserts, jagged mountain ranges, and lush forests. Above all, you don’t have to go all out to escape the stress and pressure that comes with the city life of America’s urbanity.
From the mountains and sub-arctic waters of Alaska to the fruited plains of Wyoming, from the Rockies’ dense forests to the Virgin Islands’ coral reefs, the spectrum and diversity of America’s wildlife habitats are mind-boggling.
Also, with America’s national parks and museums numbering well over 60, the exciting variety of wildlife you can explore is extensive. Eagles of all kinds soar the skies, buffaloes roam the plains, back and grizzly bears ramble through forests, snakes bask in sunlight on rocks, alligators lounge on riverbanks, manatees wallow in tropical waters, and whales and dolphins frolic in the oceans. The diversity of iconic creatures you can find is practically endless.
In brief, watching wildlife in their natural environment is exciting, memorable, and a bona fide opportunity to connect with nature. What better way to observe a wild animal than in the wilderness? Presuming you are flirting with the idea of visiting a reserve to marvel at the wildlife of America, from the lesser-known to the world-famous, these are the top ten wildlife destinations you should consider visiting.
#1 Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Number 1 on the list of Top 10 Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States. Even though the considerations for this list aren’t based on popularity ranking by any means, the Yellowstone National Park is one many consider foremost in many respects in America. And rightly so, it is the very first National Park established in the United States, earmarked in 1872 [150 years ago]. Although the official designation of the park is to the state of Wyoming, a small section of the park [3%] lies northwest to the state of Montana, on the even smaller section [1%] to the west is in Idaho.
Yellowstone covers a vast expanse of natural wilderness while boasting a combination of rugged landscapes, remarkable geology, and mind-blowing scenery that is arguably has no match across the country.
Furthermore, sits atop a super volcano, the park is a geothermal hotspot. It’s famous for its dramatic erupting geysers, which draw in millions of yearly visitors. When you add in the massive lakes, dizzying canyons, flower-filled meadows, ancient forests, and plummeting waterfalls, you have a genuinely extraordinary landscape unlike anywhere else on the globe.
Yellowstone is one of North America’s sanctuaries most populated with wildlife. Flaunting some of America’s most emblematic animals, with over 65 different mammal species alone. Not to include the distinct species of birds and native plants you are sure to find. The park is perhaps most noted for its grey wolves [an endangered species recently reintroduced into the ecosystem in 1995].
Depending on which season you choose to visit, you are likely to see animals such as bison, mule deer, elks, coyotes, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, buffaloes, prairie dogs, mountain lions, grey wolves, bald eagles, and different species of bear [black and grizzly].
In 2016, a record number of 4.2 million people visited Yellowstone; this is perhaps because, unlike many of America’s national parks, Yellowstone’s landmark features are easily accessible from the roadside.
Suppose you ever decide to go on a national park wildlife safari, Yellowstone is a logical choice to pick as your first National Park visit.
#2 Wind Cave National Park – South Dakota
Established in 1912, this is one of the earliest reservations to be set aside for animal conservation. The park gets its name from its barometric winds, large underground caverns, and maze of passageways, mapped out over 150 miles long. Also, the park is perhaps best known for its underground maze filled with intricate box work [which are rare honeycomb-like calcite formations].
On the plains of Wind Cave, animal sightings will require a little more patience and perseverance. But the payoff includes some of the rarest animal species you can imagine. A particular one of note is the pronghorn antelope [the second fastest land animal], which was especially reintroduced into this region of South Dakota in an attempt at wildlife conservation.
In addition, you are likely to encounter land animals such as the desert cottontail, bison, big-eared bats, black-footed ferrets, elks, mule deer, coyotes, mountain lions, and black-tailed prairie dogs, bullsnakes, rattlesnakes and garter snakes.
Birdlife you are likely to encounter include; sharp-tailed goose, mallard, kingbird, chickadee, black-backed woodpecker, western tanager, falcons, hawk, and wild turkeys.
Suppose you would like to take a visit to Wind Cave National Park. Here is a viewing tip for you. The open Prairie near the south entrance of the park is the best place to spot pronghorn antelopes.
#3 Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming
Located just 30 miles South of Yellowstone Park, this 310,000-acre Wildlife Conservation Park is a close neighbor to Yellowstone and it is perhaps one of the few temperate ecosystems left on the planet.
Grand Teton encompasses varying habitats. From imposing 70,000 feet high Teton peaks to low-lying plains, wetlands, and mountain meadows, this diversity of habitats draws in a large variety of wildlife. It also features probably one of the most photographed wildlife spots; the iconic Oxbow Bend.
Whatever your interests, this park has a lot to offer. The mountains alone are a thing of imagination, and you can explore over 200 miles of trails around them. Likewise, the serene rivers such as the Buffalo Fork, Gros Ventre, Pacific Creek, Cascade Creek, and the famous Snake River.
When it comes to teeming wildlife, you can be sure to spot bison, bighorn sheep, yellow-bellied marmot, river otters, pronghorn antelopes, beavers, moose, Canadian geese, bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, trumpeter swans, coyotes, and black bears.
You can take in the scenery of Grand Teton by kayaking or canoeing through its abundant rivers, hiking, or driving through the paved roads along the mountains. In particular, the boat rides offer a great vantage point for up-close observation.
#4 Katmai National Park – Alaska
If you love bears, Katmai National Park is arguably the best wildlife conservation reserve for bear watching. Perhaps you’ve seen any documentary footage of brown bears fishing for salmon near a waterfall? Almost certainly, that shot was taken in Alaska’s Katmai National Park by the filmmakers.
Suppose you would like your bear-watching experience to be one away from the crowds. With roughly 2,200 bears calling this place home, Katmai is a sensational park to have this one-of-a-kind experience. The park only has five miles of designated hiking trails. And you can explore beyond the trails as you please.
On the other hand, this trip will cost you a pretty penny. That’s because no roads from the outside lead directly into Katmai. You would have to take a flight to the nearest town of King Salmon. And then a 45-minute water taxi or floatplane to get to your destination.
During the late summer months, you can see grizzly bears at the riverbanks. They’re usually eating up their weight in salmon in preparation for the long winter. There is even a celebration for this by the National Park Service known as Fat Bear Week.
Indeed, if you are journeying into the wilderness of Katmai, you should take a guide along. There is a great chance you will stumble across dozens of grizzly bears in close encounters.
Lets continue the list of Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States.
#5 Theodore Roosevelt National Park – North Dakota
Named after the wildlife conservation president himself [Teddy Roosevelt alone created five national parks during his tenure]. This 70,000-acre National Park comprises three distinct sections of the Badlands in North Dakota. The South Unit, the North Unit, and the Roosevelt Elkhorn Ranch. The North and South units have quite beautiful scenery along the roads. And equally important are the 100 miles of trails for hiking and riding horses you’ll find across the plains.
In addition, are some striking geological mounds, golden prairie grasses, and a view of the snaking Missouri River.
Whatever activities you choose to dabble in at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you are almost guaranteed to see wild horses [one of the few places you can still find them] and American bison [the largest mammals in northern America] grazing freely. Also prominent in this Wildlife Conservation refuge are elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyotes, black-tailed prairie dogs, white-tailed deer, and different birds of prey.
Furthermore, you will find delight and comfort in the numerous wildlife that call this rugged park home.
#6 Virgin Islands National Park, St. Johns – US Virgin Islands
Perhaps the most tropical park in the contingent United States and all of its territories. This massive park covers over half the island of St. John’s in the Caribbean Sea. Across the air and land, you’ll find hummingbirds, pelicans, wild goats, donkeys, iguanas, and wild boars roaming the land.
But the island’s real magic is undoubtedly its surrounding waters and stunning white-sand beaches. With over 300 species of marine life, you’ll find popular and endangered animals of all kinds. This includes surgeonfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pucker fish, squirrelfish, angelfish, goatfish, silversides, leatherback turtles, dolphins, sea horses, crabs, barracudas, stingrays, and spotted eagle rays.
Likewise, found in the island’s waters are numerous species of coral (over 50 of them). This is perhaps why the island is one of the world’s best destinations for snorkeling and scubadiving.
A significant highlight of this tropical National Park is its underwater snorkeling trails marked with signposts. One of the first of its kind anywhere in the world. You will find these trails along Trunk Bay and other less crowded beaches. Beaches such as Waterlemon Cay, Salmon Bay, Salt Pond Bay, and Hawksnest beach.
#7 Denali National Park – Alaska
This park covers over 6,000,000 acres of tundra, glaciers, deciduous taiga, forest, mountains, and valleys. It should be no surprise that Denali National Park has an abundance of wildlife. This park shares its name with North America’s highest peak. The 20,320 feet high Mount Denali, which also lies within its expanse.
Notably, only a single road bisects the park, and no cars are allowed beyond mile 15. So you need to get on a shuttle bus for a wildlife safari along the 92-mile-long Denali Park Road.
Denali’s diversity includes 39 species of mammals, 169 species of birds, and 14 fish species. The mammals include the park’s “Big Five” – brown bears, wolves, caribou, moose, and Dall sheep, [which are the easiest to spot]. Also, you’re likely to find black bears, marmots, red foxes, wolverines, and snowshoe hares.
Of the bird species, you will be able to find bald eagles, golden eagles, hummingbirds, falcons, snow geese, arctic warblers, red-tailed hawks, and northern hawk owl.
Denali National Park is one of the best Wildlife Conservation parks to observe wild animals. It is perhaps one of the only US national parks where you can be sure to spot the iconic Big Five all in a single day. However, the park is characterized by rugged wilderness. The most exciting way to explore it is by going hiking, bicycle riding, or on a snowmobile ride [during the winter months].
#8 Glacier National Park – Montana
Nicknamed the “Crown of the North American Continent,” this all-encompassing Wildlife Conservation Park borders Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Together, they are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first of its kind in the world.
From towering snow-capped peaks and luxuriant valleys to animated waterfalls, lakes, and pristine forests, a trip to Glacier National Park gives you the feel of going back in time to when America’s wilderness was still pristine and largely untouched.
Given its name, you might be disappointed to find that the active glaciers around this Montana jewel barely number 25 [they used to be around 150 in 1850, but our deteriorating climate has drastically brought down this number]. This is perhaps why the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
With regard to wildlife, Glacier National Park houses one of the highest grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states, as well as herds of elks [about 7,300 of them], the surefooted mountain goat [the park’s official mascot], ground squirrels, mountain lions, big horn sheep, grey wolves, black bear, moose, mule deer, wolverine, lynx, marmots, white-tailed deer, and the difficult-to-spot northern bog lemming. In addition are 270 species of birds, including the native northern American bald eagle and the golden eagle.
Again, if you have ever fancied close encounters with grizzlies, Glacier Park is the reserve for you. With over 700 miles of trails to explore, you can expect a breath-taking array of flora and fauna.
#9 Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge – Colorado
Number 9 on the list of Top 10 Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of America’s most accessible national parks. With the park covering an area of 265,800 acres, it is almost impossible to believe this park. One of the largest Wildlife Conservation sanctuaries in the nation, is just a 90-minute drive from the bustling city center of Denver.
Showing off 72 named mountains with peaks higher than 12,000 feet, mesmerizing spruce and fir forests, and enchanting alpine tundra. This park is like nowhere else in the USA.
You can find endangered animals of different considerations in the park’s rocky mountain ranges and valleys. If you are passionate about big beasts, Rocky Mountain delivers with elk gangs numbering up to 800 in the winter. About 350 bighorn sheep, and its sizable number of moose and mule deer.
Also, you will likely find smaller mammals like yellow-bellied marmots, pikas, Albert squirrels, and sparsely seen mountain lions and black bears. Additionally, the bird species totals over 280, prominent among them being the golden eagles, prairie falcons, waterfowls. And the hardly spotted white-tailed ptarmigans.
The best time to visit is arguably during spring. This is when the numerous species of migrating birds make their way back to the foothills of Denver.
#10 Everglades National Park – Florida
A UNESCO Heritage site. One can hardly describe the vastness of the Everglades succinctly, but we’ll try. This is the third-largest National Park and the largest tropical wilderness in the contingent United States. In the Western Hemisphere, it holds the designation of being the largest mangrove ecosystem. And it is considered an internationally important wetland.
Everglades National Park’s immense network of waterways, wetlands, and forests serve as a climacteric habitat for many species of fresh and saltwater fish. And a nesting area for numerous water birds. Here, you’ll find endangered animals such as the Florida panther, the West Indian manatee, and the American crocodile.
Additionally, with over 200,000 of them living in the grassy marshes and lush mangroves of the Everglades, the American alligator is by far the main attraction of the park. You’ll need the help of a guide to marshal the meandering channels and find these reptiles in their element.
Airboat touring, canoeing and kayaking are the activities you can look forward to in the Everglades. These touring rides are the most efficient way to spot wildlife in this ecosystem. This has been a testament to the fantastic effects of wildlife conservation.
Summary on Top 10 Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States
The National Park Service has safety guidelines for different parks you must adhere to. Remember, the safety of these animals, as well as yours, relies on you applying good judgment on your part. Be sure to give wildlife enough room when sightseeing. Try not to disturb their habitat, and most importantly, don’t try to encounter them too closely.
Thank you for reading Places To Observe Wildlife In The United States. Also have a look at these articles: Top 10 dangerous Animals in the USA or Top 10 Most Endangered Animals in the United States.