When it is time to explore the great outdoors, wildlife viewing has always been a popular activity for students. Educators that include visits to nature centers and parks on itineraries not only expose teenagers to Mother Nature, but they also allow for recreational opportunities.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
Branson, Missouri’s Dogwood Canyon Nature Park has a lot to offer for school groups. The 10,000-acre park in the Ozark Mountains is home to flowering dogwood trees, dozens of waterfalls, an ancient burial grounds, and trout-laden streams.
There are a number of ways to see the park, ranging from walking a 6.5-mile trail and biking along a paved path to taking a horseback or Segway tour. Its streams hold many rainbow trout, and catch-and-release fishing expeditions, fly-casting clinics, and self-guided fishing excursions are popular.
As part of the guided Wildlife Tram Tour, students take an open-air tram into the wilderness that is home to steep canyons, soaring bluffs, and stone arches. The two-hour ride includes a chance to see wildlife such as longhorn steers, elk, and bison.
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
Located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, southeast of Seattle, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is a 725-acre attraction near Eatonville, Washington, that combines wildlife viewing with outdoor fun.
Nature walks along hiking trails and narrated tram tours give students an up-close view of local wildlife. As they explore the park’s different areas, they can see bighorn sheep, caribou, and elk, as well as wolves, lynx, bears, and other predators.
At Zip Wild’s Deep Forest Challenge area, five exhilarating zip line courses take students up into the tree canopy for adventure. In addition to soaring along the zip lines, they also walk, crawl, or scramble through obstacles ranging from a series of suspended bridges to a climbing wall.
Oregon’s Sea Lion Caves
Another hot spot in the Pacific Northwest for wildlife viewing is Sea Lion Caves. Since opening nearly 90 years ago, the attraction along the Oregon Coast in Florence has welcomed hundreds of thousands of students.
Part wildlife preserve and part bird sanctuary, the caves are situated right on the Pacific Ocean. Groups take a short elevator ride from the welcome center to the main viewing area, where they can watch sea lions, migratory birds, and other animals in their natural habitat. Depending on the season, the caves also are a good spot for whale watching.
Sea Lion Caves staff members also have developed an extensive set of material that teachers can use leading up to a visit to introduce students to the attraction’s natural history, geology, and environmental and biological science.
Top photo: Dogwood Canyon Nature Park’s Wildlife Tram Tour
Photo by Branson CVB
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Huntsville, Alabama Convention & Visitors Bureau
North Dakota Tourism Division
Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ron Jon Surf Shop
Savannah Riverboat Cruises
Virginia Beach Convention & Visitor Bureau