Offbeat Nature Destinations To Visit This Summer

monarch butterflyWhen you think of summer fun, what comes to mind? A trip to the beach? Walking around the touristy part of a major city? It’s time to give your summer vacay the fun twist of nature! Check out these upcoming events at national wildlife refuges:

Hear a concert on the prairie – Prairie City, Iowa

June 10, 2016, Iowa

Enjoy a night of music, art and nature at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, IA, located just 25 minutes east of Des Moines. At this open-air concert organized by the Friends of Neal Smith Refuge you’ll hear great music by the Max Wellman Jazz Trio and get the chance to view an exhibit by wildlife artist Russ Duerksen. Concert proceeds and a portion of art sales will help support the purchase of new educational displays in the refuge’s Prairie Learning Center.

Build a bison – Denver, Colorado

June 19, 2016

Go more than skin deep and get hands-on at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Denver, Colo. You and your team are handed a bag of real bison bones to arrange into a recognizable part—ribs, hip or leg—of the animal’s skeleton. Then join your segment with another team’s, and when all six parts are joined, you’ll have a life-size bison! Learn what secrets the bones reveal about this specific bison and find out how these large bones provide the body support and protection the bison needs to move and thrive on the prairie.

Dig for selenite crystals – Jet, Oklahoma

April 1 through October 15, 2016

Be prepared to get your hands dirty as you dig for selenite crystals at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Jet, Okla. You can bring home up to 10 pounds of crystals a day or one large cluster. And keep a keen eye out for wildlife while you’re digging; many bird species use the salt flats for nesting. Birds that may nest there include snowy plowers, endangered interior least terns, and American avocets.

Get chills on a “Wolf Howl” – Manteo, North Carolina

Wednesdays, June 1 through August 31, 2016 and select Saturdays in the fall

When the sun sets, join a guide and head into the woods of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Manteo, N.C., to hear the chilling howls of  endangered red wolves in one of their last natural habitats. Only an estimated 100 red wolves remain in the wild.

Show moths some love – Liberty, Texas

July 23, 2016

Celebrate National Moth Week by viewing and photographing some of the more than 750 species of moths documented around the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Liberty City, Texas. You’ll even help map moth distribution and document moth life history using online biological data depositories.

Net a butterfly

September 10, 2016 – Monarch Madness (Iowa)

September 17, 2016 – Monarch Mania (Kansas)

October 22, 2016 – Monarch Festival (Florida)

Join in the butterfly-catching fun by participating in “Monarch Madness” on September 10 at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa, or at “Monarch Mania” on September 17 at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford, Kan. Join other festival-goers in racing around the refuges, nets in hand, to collect monarch butterflies for tagging.

Missed the fun? Monarch tagging continues on October 22 at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in St. Marks, Fla. The monarchs will already have been netted when you get there, but you can watch biologists tag and release these colorful creatures.


Driving to any of these wild and fun-filled summer destinations? Then switch to GEICO! You could save hundreds on your car insurance or RV insurance.

By Yousef Abdul-Husain

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