America's Best Drive-By Vacation Spots
Tim Williams, USFWS, Flickr
Summer is almost over, but there is still time for one last road trip over Labor Day weekend. Visitors don't even have to get out of their cars to enjoy some of America's natural beauty. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presented these 10 wilderness areas that can be enjoyed from behind the wheel. Or simply take in the scenery from the desktop of your computer.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware
The 12-mile drive through Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge passes salt marshes, woodlands and fields near Delaware Bay, south of Philadelphia. At this time of year herons, egrets and black-necked stilts wade the waters of the refuge. Birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and bald eagles, make their homes there year-round.
Harold Wagle, USFWS, Flickr
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
This October, a four-mile-long wildlife drive through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge will reopen after repaving. The route winds through mangrove forests, marshes and clumps of hardwood trees. Roseate spoonbills (shown here), storks, herons, pelicans, bald eagles, otters, bobcats and alligators live in the refuge, which was named for a Pulitzer-prize winning political and environmental cartoonist.
Pat Gaines, USFWS, Flickr
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
Drive south from Albuquerque to reach the 12-mile auto loop of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for spectacular views of the Chupadera and San Pascual Mountains. At dawn from late October through early spring, flocks of sandhill cranes and snow geese fly out of the refuge to feed in fields and return at dusk to the wetlands, like the sleeping cranes in this nighttime photo.
USFWS, Wikimedia Commons
National Bison Range, Montana
A steep 19-mile gravel road up Red Sleep Mountain leads to outstanding views of grasslands where herds of bison, antelope, elk, big horn sheep and deer graze in the National Bison Range of Montana. The sight of the Mission Mountain range of the Rockies rewards travelers who make it to the top.
Dave Menke, USFWS, Flickr
Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges, California
In northern California, the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges offer two chances to glimpse Mt. Shasta and do some birdwatching from behind the wheel. Take either the 10.2-mile Lower Klamath loop or an alternative side route that leads to a hiking trail head and boasts seasonal views of ducks and geese (spring/fall), white pelicans and western grebes (summer), and bald eagles and other raptors (winter).
Matthew Strausser, USFWS, Flickr
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Moose, bear, snowshoe hares, beaver and lynx roam near the Skilak Loop Wildlife Drive, an 18.5-mile gravel loop in the Kenai refuge. The drive passes through a black spruce forest and along Skilak Lake and Engineer Lake.
Carl Evans, USFWS, Flickr
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
A three-mile drive leads to the top of Mt. Scott in the Wichita Mountains southwest of Oklahoma City. From there, motorists can take in a panoramic view of the Wichita Mountain range. In the shadows of the mountains, bison roam through the wildflowers of some of the United State’s last untilled prairie.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan
In the Seney refuge, the seven-mile Marshland Wildlife Drive provide a view of wetlands and open water. The route also passes through forests in the Great Manistique Swamp, an old lumbering area, now home to beaver, river otters, bald eagles, osprey, black bear and numerous birds in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia Commons
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington
Near the bank of the Columbia River, a 4.2-mile gravel loop road cuts through fields, wetlands and forests in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, north of Portland, Oregon. Along the way, an observation blind allows visitors to catch a surreptitious glimpse of many birds, such as the red-tailed hawk shown here, as well as mallard ducks and sandhill cranes.
Jennifer Jewett, USFWS
Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota
Over the gently rolling hills of upland prairie in North Dakota, the 19-mile Refuge Backway allows motorists to see moose, deer, turkeys, raptors and migrant birds in the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge. In Autumn, land managers conduct controlled burns to restore the health of the grassland.