Top Ten National Parks for Wildlife Viewing

By Nicole Daro

Anyone who's made the 3,000-mile road trip from coast to coast knows what an extraordinary variety of landscapes there are spanning the continent. You may have been wondering how long you could stand staring out at the Great Plains when you spotted the rugged Rocky Mountains rising on the horizon. When the mountains give way again to the deserts and plateaus of the West, you probably thought you had veered off the road and into an alternate reality, where the earth is pink and rocks stand on end.

Pleasing as this scenery is to look at through the car window as you speed along the interstate, it's much, much more. That's habitat you're looking at, full of living things. This is, after all, "where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play." If you take a closer look, you'll see that these are habitats that sustain an amazing amount of wildlife—the beasts and critters who once roamed across the whole continent.

As part of its mission to protect natural resources while providing enjoyment for visitors, the National Park Service makes it quite possible to get up close and personal with the animals of your choice, be that an alligator in Florida's Everglades or one of Yellowstone's grizzlies. Ask park rangers for the latest information and brush up on your wildlife viewing skills before you go.

These parks represent a cross section of the North American habitats that once spread continuously across the continent. Some of these parks, like Rocky Mountain National Park, make great viewing spots because they are rich, wild environments where wildlife thrives on abundant resources. Others, like Big Bend, are harsher habitats, where animals have had to adapt in unique ways to scarcity. Whichever park you choose, encounters with animals in the wild are bound to be a thrill. You will be entranced with their beauty and grace, and their ability to survive, against all odds, in the modern world.


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