Last weekend my dear James and I went on a little adventure to seek out native wildlife. I don’t recall how I came across Northwest Trek Wildlife Park but I sure am glad I did! The park is part of the Tacoma Metro Park system but is a non-profit conservation and education organization.
At about an hour south of Seattle you end up in the middle of nowhere, right next to Mount Rainier. After winding through the forest you find plenty of parking available divided up into small lots. The admission fees are reasonable (currently about $20 per adult). We arrived shortly after they opened at 930am and walked right up to the ticket booth. When you purchase your admission you are also automatically given a specific time and a token for the tram tour. I liked this because we knew exactly how much time we had before our tram and at what time to get in line to be admitted. No waiting in huge lines with everyone else in the park.
We were on the 11am tram through the open-range area where the herbivores live. According to the tour guide, the staff only intervenes with the animals when serious medical attention is needed. They don’t even name the animals. I found this refreshing. They don’t even know when a baby is coming because they don’t do ultrasounds! The staff arrives at the park and there is a baby. Fantastic!
We saw groups of every species represented in the open-range area: deer, caribou, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, bison, elk. We also saw random raccoons hanging out along the roadside!
The website states that they have over 200 animals on 725 acres. The carnivores are obviously kept separate but all have decent enclosures and looked healthy and content. That is all I can ask, right? My favorite part was watching the coyote pack from a research cabin. There is a camera set up that you can move and watch the coyotes. I’m pretty sure they could hear the camera moving but didn’t let it interrupt their morning play time. I really enjoy watching social behavior in animals. I really should have been a cultural biologist.
After the tram ride we headed out to the car to grab our lunch. There is a cafe within the park but it is kind of pricey and I can’t depend on places like this to have a vegan option so I made sandwiches and packed trail mix and carrots. There are plenty of picnic tables in the main square, both covered and not. We found a secluded table in the sun and set up camp. James quickly fell asleep.
We did venture into the cafe after we had eaten so James could grab some caffeine. Inside I found out that they do have a vegan-able black bean burger available. I’ll keep that in mind for next time!
With full bellies we wandered the walking trails to see eagles, bears, a puma, and many smaller forest and wetland critters. I learned what a Fisher is – hadn’t heard of that before!
In all, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park was a great trip. Beautiful scenery, awesome animals and natural history to learn, and seems to be a great place to bring kids. If you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area or are visiting, this is a great destination for outdoor adventure for every fitness level. I look forward to bringing our daughter to Northwest Trek!