Offbeat Nature Destinations To Visit This Summer

prairie chicken chickWhen 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:

Build a bison – Commerce City, Colorado

Sunday, March 26, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017

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, 2017

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.

Learn lessons in love at the Prairie-Chicken Festival – Eagle Lake, Texas

April 8-9, 2017

Prairie-chickens are in the mood for romance way past Valentine’s Day. If you can’t make it to the festival, you can visit Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge for its Saturday tours to see males perform their flamboyant courtship dance in the spring—complete with foot stomps, fanned tail feathers, inflated yellow air sacs and strange booming sounds. Bring your binoculars for a morning trip through the stunning coastal prairies of southeastern Texas. Save time for refuge wildflower tours and walks to explore the diversity of the habitat.

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017
Saturday, May 13, 2017

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.

Bid on antlers at Elk Fest – Jackson, Wyoming

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Each spring, thousands of elk at the National Elk Refuge shed their antlers and begin migrating north. Jackson District Boy Scouts help refuge staff gather the antlers, which are auctioned in the Jackson town square. A portion of the Elk Fest proceeds benefits National Elk Refuge conservation efforts.

Fun continues through the week. Explore the refuge for a chance to see wild elk that haven’t left yet. Stay to compete in the Mountain Man Rendezvous, a week-long competition in archery and knife throwing, or sample the High Noon Chili Cook-Off.

Get rolling and pedal the prairie – Prairie City, Iowa

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Join a free 10-mile bike ride on the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Prairie Parkway Bike Trail. If you’re lucky, you might see bison and elk along the way. Native wildflowers are an even surer bet. When you’re done cycling, hike the trails, and explore the refuge visitor center. Not sure you want to commit to 10 miles? Opt for the Family Fun Ride (1.5 miles) instead.

Show moths some love on Moth Night Out – Liberty, Texas

Saturday, July 22, 2017

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 16, 2017 – Monarch Madness (Iowa)

September 16, 2017 – Monarch Mania (Kansas)

October 28, 2017 – Monarch Festival (Florida)

On September 16, join in the butterfly-catching fun by participating in “Monarch Madness” at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa, or at “Monarch Mania” 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 28 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

Next article: Surprising Summer Camping Destinations

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