New! Wildlife Viewing in Utah
- Posted On
- Feb 02, 2010
There are many places in the State of Utah to view wildlife in their natural environment. The state's five national parks provide habitat for many species, but due to heavy human visitation to the parks, most of God's other creatures hang out in the far reaches of the backcountry where you'll have to hike to get a glimpse, if you're lucky. But don't give up hope. There's so many species of birds and animals and so many places for them to thrive in Utah, you're chances of viewing wildlife are excellent. Here's but a few.
Flaming Gorge/Uintas National Scenic Byway – Wildlife Through the Ages. This is a driving route beginning north of Vernal, winds through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area with a side trip through Sheep Creek Canyon, and ends near Manila in the northeast corner of Eastern Utah. Many interpretive signs and sites and several clearly marked nature trails are along the way. Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, moose, black bears, marmots, and snowshoe hares can be viewed, as can birds of many species – hawks, Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawks and Northern Flickers. In Sheep Creek Canyon, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep can be seen in the outcrops above and the riparian vegetation along the stream harbor more species of migrating songbirds than any other spot in Utah.
Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area. This 14,000-acre preserve is managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and is the state's premier area for viewing Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus). The Ranch is 15 miles from Hyrum, near Logan in Northern Utah. Visitors to Hardware Ranch have the opportunity to view between 300 and 700 during the winter season. Horse drawn sleigh rides bring viewers extremely close to these magnificent beasts. Visitors Center, a restaurant and gift shop are on site. For a special treat, by reservation only, dinner and a moonlight ride to view the elk is offered on weekends. 435-753-6206 or hardwareranch.com
Swaner Memorial Park. Only 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, Swaner is 800 acres of high mountain meadows with streams, wetlands and lowlands in Snyderville Basin near Park City. There's a large population of mammals here, red fox, mule deer, coyote, badger, elk and bobcat. The bigger species are reclusive and difficult to spot, but several smaller animals and birds can be observed. And who knows? One might get lucky and spot a fox or bobcat. Ornithology buffs will have a field day at Swaner observing dozens of species, including Sandhill Cranes and Great Blue Herons. A 1.7-mile double-loop trail winds through a particularly beautiful section of the park.
Little Cottonwood Canyon. Skiers driving up to Snowbird and Alta for first tracks pass by a wonderful opportunity at the canyon mouth to view Rocky Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). On the rugged cliffs above the canyon road one can see these magnificent animals, usually in herds of 10 to 35 or 40. Binoculars or a spotting scope are helpful in viewing. The Temple Quarry Nature Trail on the south side of the road is a good place to observe the "Acrobats on Rocks." Interpretive panels along the trail enhance the experience. Up-canyon near the resorts, moose are spotted frequently.
Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. This is arguably the state's premier wildlife habitat and viewing area. Over 150 bird species depend on the lake's ecosystem for food and shelter during some part of the year. The island is a major migratory stopover for herons, pelicans, cormorants, gulls and terns. At peak migration, up to five million shorebirds visit Antelope Island. A great way to observe and photograph nesting birds on tiny Egg Island just off Antelope is by sea kayak with Scott Baxter at Great Salt Lake Adventures. greatsaltlakekayak.com. Antelope Island has a wonderful non-motorized trail system to view their prize herd of bison, as well as deer, fox, bighorn sheep, coyote and, of course, antelope.
These are but a few of the dozens of wildlife viewing areas in the state. Some others to consider are: Snow Goose Festival near Delta in Central Utah, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Farmington Bay in Northern Utah, the Bighorn Sheep Festival in Moab and raptor viewing in the Deep Creek Range at Ibapah near the Utah-Nevada state line.