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Nature's Wonder: A Butterfly Migration

Nature's Wonder: A Butterfly Migration

Did you know that there is a species of butterfly that migrates from the Yakima Valley to Mt Rainier and back each year? This migration starts mid-May from the Snow Mountain Ranch Trail area of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy. The Coronis Fritillary butterflies are following the blooming plants of the shrub Steppe Habitat to the higher elevations.

Check out this article in the May/June 2015 issue of Western Journey about Butterfly Migration in the Yakima Valley


Butterfly Safari Project: Each year volunteer docents are trained by Dr. David James, WSU Research Entomologist and co-author of the book Life Histories of the Cascadia Butterflies, on identifying, capturing and tagging the butterfly’s. The butterfly’s are tagged from May through June. Groups hiking in the Cascades may participate by identifying the tagged butterfly’s and reporting where they were found. At the end of August through September the female butterfly’s return to Snow Mountain Ranch to lay their eggs for the next generation, and are counted. If you would like to volunteer to participate in the training and tagging, or want to report finding tagged butterfly’s in the Cascades, contact here. This year tagging starts on May 22,2014.

Project Butterfly Field Trips for kids of all ages. Docents help at four “stations” located at the Children’s Butterfly Garden in Snow Mountain Ranch. Each “station” will have a fascinating natural history lesson and fun learning activity. Big school groups can come out to the site, break into small groups and rotate through the four learning stations, The Butterfly Life Cycle, When Plants Talk, The Might Oak and the Web of Life, and The Promise of Pollinator. For event times contact here.

Nature Activities

Yakima Sportsman State Park,a 247-acre shaded camping park donated to Washington State Parks in 1956 by the Yakima Sportsman’s Association which was established in 1940 to promote game management and the preservation of natural resources. The park is located close to Downtown Yakima, on the flood plain of the Yakima River, offering camping, picnic areas and fishing in the nearby Yakima River and ponds One hundred and forty bird species have been identified in the park. The Juan A. Alvarez Outdoor Living Classroom is a short, paved ADA-accessible trail and pier offering visitors a look at a living, working wetland. Park Summer Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Winter: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park is open year round for camping and day use.

Fort Simcoe State Park, 20 miles west of Toppenish on Fort Road. Lewis’s Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Steller’s Jay. Ash-throated Flycatchers nest close by. Spring and fall migration are very good for viewing. A mother bear and cub have been seen at the park in past years.

The Oak Creek Wildlife Feeding Station is located on The White Pass Scenic Byway (Hwy 12), less then 30 minutes from downtown Yakima. Elk migrate from the mountains, when the snow pack gets deep, to the feeding station in the foothills, where the station is located. The Rocky Mountain Elk bulls’ average weight is 450-900 lbs. During severe winters, as many as 8,000 elk may use the feeding areas. The migration affords the opportunity to see these majestic animals up close as they are being fed daily at 1:30pm. A normal winter season is mid-December to early March. Truck tours are available on a first-come, first served and reservation basis to take visitors out among the elk. These tours are supported by donations. The visitor center at the Oak Creek Headquarters is open every day between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The center has a video program, exhibits, and a kids’ corner. There is no charge to view the exhibits, but donations are welcomed. The Discover Pass is required for parking.

Cleman Mountain Feeding Site: Bighorn sheep can be viewed at the Cleman Mountain feeding site and are fed mid-morning. Driving from Yakima, the entrance to the site is the first right just past the junction of Highway 12 and 410.

Nature Publications for the Yakima Valley these printed brochure’s are available at the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center.

The Audubon Society produces an excellent series of birding trail maps for all areas in Washington State. The Sun and Sage Loop map features the birds seen in the Yakima Valley Area.

The Yakima Area Wildlife Viewing Guide is a valuable resource outlining all the areas to view nature and wildlife up-close in the Yakima Valley. This brochure includes a map to all the natural areas and descriptions of the wildlife that one will see.