The mighty Mississippi River flows past Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin early in its 2,300 mile voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. In the fall, migrating birds and monarch butterflies likewise travel south, looking for food and warmer temperatures. Other wildlife remain, keeping the refuge active through winter. As the leaves fall, it’s easier to spot eagles in trees, rabbits bounding through fields, foxes chasing mice and river otters playing on the banks of the river. Photo by Michael Boerger (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Happy Birthday to Yosemite National Park! On this day in 1890, Yosemite became our 3rd national park. This spectacular landscape was first protected with the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864, which set aside 39,000 acres of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the State of California. When President Abraham Lincoln signed that legislation, it was the first time in U.S. history that land was designated for public use and preservation. For more than a century, millions of people have been inspired by this special place. Photo by National Park Service.
Reflect on this. From an estimated population of almost 60 million animals roaming throughout North America, bison reached a low of 100 in the wild in the late 1800s. Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, the National Bison Range in Montana has played an important role in the successful recovery of these magnificent animals. Mostly rolling grasslands, the range is framed by mountain ranges and spotted with wildlife including elk, deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, over 200 species of birds and of course, majestic bison. Photo by Dave Fitzpatrick, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but cypress trees are an important part of Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. A cypress dome is a fascinating habitat. Forming over an underwater depression, the tallest trees grow in the deepest water and the smaller trees grow along the edge in the shallower water, giving the dome its shape. The trees’ wide bases help them absorb water and keep them stable in storms. Epiphytic plants attach themselves to the tree trunks, earning them the name of airplants. River otters and alligators make their homes here, too. It’s probably not a place you’d want to live, but the shade, colors and reflection are worth the visit. Photo by National Park Service.
Morning frost clings to tall grasses at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota. Half water and half rolling hills, Chase Lake plays an important role in the conservation of the American white pelican, hosting a large breeding population in the summer. Those big white birds won’t be back for a few months, but there’s still lots to see and do at the refuge. Sunrises are a great way to start the day. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Just because we rarely feature national fish hatcheries doesn’t mean they’re not important. Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington produces millions of upriver bright and Chinook salmon that are a vital part of the environment and economy of the area. Visitors to the hatchery can learn all about its operations and history, as well as try to catch their own fish in Drano Lake (be sure to follow state regulations). Challenging whitewater for expert kayakers is another available thrill. If that’s too much excitement for you, just relax by the clear waters and enjoy a beautiful fall day. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The violet light of sunset reflects on the water at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, while this great blue heron concentrates on its next meal. Great blue herons live year-round in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and spend most of their waking time fishing. Growing up to 4 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 6 feet, they are graceful birds flying through the air or wading in the water. Where is your favorite place to watch great blue herons and other birds? Photo by Kaila Ferrufino (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Glimpsed from Seattle, Washington, or viewed from up close, Mount Rainier at sunset is an incredible sight. Trails throughout Mount Rainier National Park offer amazing chances to take pictures of the mountain, walk through colorful wildflower meadows, hang out next to still alpine lakes and encounter fascinating wildlife. One visit might not be enough. Photo courtesy of Albert Yang.