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Animals of Land and Sea at Zoos and Refuges in Washington

Get a raw look at nature with unspoiled views of wildlife at zoos and refuges in Washington state. Preservation of land has long been a priority for Washingtonians. Quilavute Needles Wildlife Refuge in Washington was among the first ten wildlife refuges to have been established in the US. in 1907. Today the number of wildlife refuges in Washington exceeds 20 giving protection to hundreds of bird species, fish and mammals.

Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 40,000-acres in Stevens County and is the largest refuge in Washington state. Here, you can get a look at various large mammals in the wild including bear, deer, moose and bald eagles. Drive the 11-mile auto tour to keep your distance or venture out on foot on well-marked hiking trails. Entrance to the park is free.

In Tenino, Washington the nationally recognized Wolf Haven International is one of few of its kind. Focusing on providing a sanctuary for captive-born and displaced wolves, visitors can participate in a 50-minute guided walking tour and explore the museum gallery. Reservations to Wolf Haven should be made in advance.

For a more immersive land and sea experience, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma features multiple aquariums, outdoor habitats, and an interactive kid’s zone. Get up close with sharks in an underwater shark dive with a trained dive expert. Explore exotic creatures like the Sumatran Tiger, Pacific Walrus, and Polar Bear. Parking is free, and the Zoo is open most days throughout the year.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Founded in 1905, the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, is one of the premier zoo and aquariums in the Pacific Northwest. Zoo visitors see a wide variety of animals in the collection of exhibits.

The zoo features the Asian Forest Sanctuary, Rocky Shores, Arctic Tundra, Red Wolves, and the North & South Pacific Aquariums. Kids love touching the sea anemones and urchins in the tide pool and kids' zone, while young and old visitors alike, chuckle at the penguins waddling around.

The Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater offers a wonderful array of animal shows and performances. End the day with a quick spin on the antique Carousel for last-minute fun.

Seattle Aquarium

Located on Pier 59 along the Seattle Waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium makes learning about aquatic creatures fun. Spend a day exploring the aquarium for the variety of exhibits, including the Pacific Coral Reef, Window on the Washington Waters, Underwater Dome, Birds and Shores, and the Ocean Oddities.

Take the kids to the Orcas: Family Activity Center, and spend a few minutes in the listening station to hear the sounds in the Puget Sound area. Seattle visitors enjoy the "touch zone" in the Life on the Edge exhibit where you can feel the anemones and sunflower sea stars.

Wolf Haven International

Founded in 1982, the Wolf Haven International animal sanctuary is a non-profit organization found in Tenino, just outside of Tumwater. As you explore western Washington, set aside some time and check out one of the premier wolf rehabilitation centers in the state.

You'll find Wolf Haven International just east of Old Hwy 99 on Offut Lake Road. At the sanctuary, the objective is simple: "Conserve and protect wolves and their habitat." Plan your visit to Wolf Haven where you'll be able to enjoy a guided walking tour of the grounds. In late September each year, Wolf Haven International hosts Wolves & Wine, a fall fundraising event.

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, located near Othello in eastern Washington, is a vital wildlife sanctuary for a variety of waterfowl, migratory birds and Sandhill Cranes. Established in 1944, the refuge encompasses over 29,000 acres of land that includes canyons, cliffs, deep coulees, lakes and wetlands.

The seepage from the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project provides the majority of the water that forms the lakes, streams, marshes, wet meadows and sloughs. Enjoy exploring the refuge by foot on one of the three hiking trails to view the flowers and wildlife or spend the afternoon boating on one of the lakes.

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Plan you next trek through the southern crest of the Puget Sound region – be sure to visit the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Established in 1974, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge covers nearly 4,000 acres of marsh, swamp, and woodlands in Olympia, just north of Lacey. It's operated and overseen by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.

Originally created as a means to provide a habitat for migratory birds and area waterfowl, today the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is home to protected salt marshes, mudflats, and estuaries.

Throughout the year, nearly 20,000 birds from about 275 species use the grasslands and marshes for nesting and breeding.

Oak Creek State Wildlife Area

As you travel along Highway 12 near Yakima in the Washington Cascades region, be sure to plan for an adventure-filled day at Oak Creek State Wildlife Area. With the Tieton River just a stones throw away, Oak Creek yields fun for all. It's about 22 miles northwest from downtown Yakima.

At 64,200 acres, Oak Creek Wildlife Area spreads across both Kittitas County and Yakima County. You'll find a diverse topography at Oak Creek – canyons, rolling ridges, rocky terrain, and several steep slopes. The wildlife at Oak Creek is an impressive array: deer, goats, California big horn sheep, and lots of turkeys.