By Julianne G. Crane
Writer’s Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, RV Short Stops is highlighting places that can be safely experienced from the road or in an outdoor public space such as a park or college campus. If you know of cities with outstanding public art collections, or unique places, please let us know so we can feature them.
Outdoor adventures are much more safe than indoor activities during COVID-19 pandemic challenges. While most visitor activities are on hold indefinitely at many wildlife refuges, free outdoor viewing of these magnificent creatures is still possible at a number of places during the holidays.
National Elk Refuge, Jackson, Wyo.
Sitting in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, the National Elk Refuge “provides, preserves, restores, and manages winter habitat for the nationally significant Jackson Elk Herd as well as habitat for endangered species, birds, fish, and other mammals.”
“Currently there is a large herd of Bighorn Sheep,” said Refuge Manager Frank Durbian. “The elk will be moving in soon.” While all visitor activities are closed for the winter, the Refuge itself remains open from sunrise to sunset for free wildlife viewing along Refuge Road.
There is no entrance fee to drive onto Refuge Road beginning at the end of East Broadway Avenue in Jackson. During the winter, only the first 3.5 miles are open to the public in order to limit disturbance to the wintering wildlife. Click here to see a “live Webcam” of National Elk Refuge from the nearby Flat Creek Inn.
For information on the area:
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
260 W. Broadway
Jackson Hole, WY
Elk Country Visitor Center, Benezette, Pa.
The free Elk Country Visitor Center is a premier elk viewing location for the largest wild elk herd in the northeastern United States.
This public-private partnership is committed to “sustaining Pennsylvania’s majestic elk habitat, as part of the overall preservation and enhancement of our state’s natural resources.” Outside, families can explore well-tended wildlife trails, elk observation areas, and viewing walls.
Pets and wildlife do not mix. Please keep in mind that Elk Country does not allow pets or smoking on the Center’s grounds. While the Visitor Center is open, they stress wearing masks and social distancing.
Elk Country Visitor Center
134 Homestead Drive
(For navigation systems, use: 950 Winslow Hill Road) Benezette, PA 15821
November–December: Thursday–Monday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
January–March: Saturday & Sunday Only, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, 1st day of Buck [season], Christmas*, New Years* (*close at noon on eve of), Easter Sunday.
Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, Reedsport, Ore.
By far one of the best roadside rests in Oregon is the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area near the Pacific Coast Highway. Not only are there vault toilets and room to stretch your legs, it is the year-round residence for a herd of about 100 Roosevelt elk. A mild winter climate and abundant food allow the Roosevelt elk to remain at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area all year.
The best times to view and photograph wildlife are early mornings and just before dusk. That said, on a recent early afternoon visit, there were plenty of elk roaming around grazing.
Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area
48819 Hwy 38
Reedsport, OR 97467
Read more on Dean Creek Elk Viewing area by clicking here.
Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area, northwest Oregon
Another outdoor wildlife viewing location in Oregon is the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area in the Coast Range Mountains, in the northwestern part of the state. The wildlife area was established in 1969, with an initial purchase of 183 acres. It now encompasses 1,114 acres. A parking permit is required to park at this wildlife area. Click here to find out how to buy a parking permit. The best time to visit: all year for bird and wildlife viewing. November – April for elk viewing. Always open. Click here for a Jewell Meadows features and ownership map.
Information for safer Holiday RV travel during COVID
Always take your own supplies to help you and your family to stay healthy. Pack extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. For COVID-19 information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safer travel click on: CDC Holiday Celebration.