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Exploring Nature in the Yakima Valley

Exploring Nature in the Yakima Valley

Want to get outdoors and see local wildlife in their natural habitat? Come discover nature in the Yakima Valley! View everything from wild elk to numerous bird species: including eagles, pelicans, and Great Blue herons, and even watch a butterfly release. Get the family together for a nature adventure in the Yakima Valley!


Every winter, hundreds of elk come down from the Cascade forests to get food at the Oak Creek Wildlife Feeding Station.  You can get up close with these majestic animals by taking the 30-minute guided truck tours of the feed site, offered daily. The Oak Creek Visitor Center also features fun and educational exhibits about the other animals living in the Cascade Mountains. Watch the elk feed through the large viewing windows, and let the kids enjoy the educational video program and kid’s corner. The center is open from 9:00 am- 4:00 pm, and the elk are fed every day at 1:30 pm. There is no charge to view the exhibits or the elk. January and February are the best months for viewing, when close to 1,200 elk are present.


Looking for a challenge? Search and identify animal tracks in the snow at Snow Mountain Ranch! The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy will be providing a guided family-friendly opportunity to look for animal tracks on Saturday, January 21st, at 10:00 am.  There’s a chance you’ll see deer, coyote, beavers and more! The Conservancy also offers community walks and lectures about the shrub step environment throughout the year.



Project Butterfly is an organized event for classrooms and groups hosted by the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy. The CCC Docents lead nine learning modules called the "Trail Talks" Program. Each Trail Talk features a natural history lesson and fun learning activity at the learning stations.  Your family can help Project Butterfly by recording sightings during late June through early September when the Canyon’s butterflies move up in elevation to the forests. If you are camping or hiking in the Cascades and you see a big orange butterfly with black spots, take a picture and send it in with the date, time and location of the sighting.  Location may be a verbal description of where you are, or GPS coordinates.  The Conservancy also partners with the PNW Monarch Rearing Program for a wondrous Monarch Butterfly Release, usually in late August or early September. The “Music and Monarchs” event is open to all families, and lets you watch dozens of beautiful butterflies take flight!


From Trumpeter Swans to the Great Blue Heron, and the American White Pelican plus numerous species of ducks, the Toppenish Wildlife Refuge provides lots of opportunities to view wildlife in its native habitat in any season.

Memorial Day Weekend is the Washington State Audubon Campout at The Hazel Wolf Bird Sanctuary at Wenas Creek Campground. Members of Washington State's Audubon Chapters and their friends (need not be a member) gather in the Wenas Valley, north of Yakima. This nature-focused campout includes campfire programs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as birding and wildflower field trips. There may be insect hunts and bat watching as well!


In 2005, while constructing a private road on a hillside overlooking the Wenas Valley, the left front leg bone of a mammoth was uncovered. The Wenas Mammoth Foundation Mobile Exhibit can be seen at various events throughout the valley, such as the annual Dozer Day, Yakima Arboretum Arbor Day,  Folklife Festival, and more.  Or you can visit the Wenas Mammoth Dig Site, which is being preserved for scientific research and educational opportunities for K-12 and higher.  Students get to apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as learning history, geology and geography, in a hands-on educational and scientific environment.


Bald eagles can be spotted along the Yakima River throughout the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway, as well as pelicans, numerous other birds, deer and elk. There have been eagles and Great Blue Heron seen along the Yakima Greenway as well, and Canadian Geese can be seen at the Yakima Area Arboretum, as well as other birds from their bird blind. A local favorite spot for families is Randall Park, which has a viewing platform to feed the geese and ducks that gather.

Discovering nature is always a fun and educational experience for your entire family! Whether it's your main reason for visiting or a special side trip, make plans to get out and explore nature in the Yakima Valley!