'10 Great State Parks for Wildlife' a great list from The Nature Conservancy

Ran across a great article by Matt Miller on The Nature Conservancy website called "10 Great State Parks for Wildlife."

National parks may get all the press, Miller writes, and recent travel blogs like Fodor's and USA Today have listed their picks for America's top state parks. But, as Miller points out, their selections are usually based on scenery. Miller argues that state parks can offer just as much opportunity to birders, natural history enthusiasts and other wildlife buffs, so he's come up with his own list of "10 Great State Parks for Wildlife."

"I’ve focused here on state parks I’ve actually visited that are great for wildlife and natural history. It’s impossible to go to them all, of course, so I’m sure I’ve missed some great parks," Miller says, asking people to suggest other state parks in the comments section of his article.

Below are just the highlights of his list. Click here to read the whole thing.

Custer State Park, South Dakota: The granite peaks and native prairie of Custer State Park have long made it a popular draw for Black Hills tourists. It also offers fantastic wildlife viewing. It’s hard to miss the 1500 bison and expansive prairie dog towns.

Baxter State Park, Maine: Baxter State Park is best known for being the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, with great hiking trails including the ascent of Mount Katahdin. It also happens to be one of the best places in the eastern United States to see a moose.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (Photo by Matt Miller)
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California: California has a wealth of natural wonders at its state parks, from elephant seal colonies at Ano Nuevo State Park to desert wildflowers at Anza Borrego. I chose Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park because it offers one of the great hikes through towering coastal redwoods: the Boy Scout Tree Trail. The full splendor of these giant trees is on display on this easily accessible hike.

Antelope Island State Park, Utah: Bison on the beach: that’s the real attraction Antelope Island State Park, a large island in the Great Salt Lake. The herd of bison is easily spotted from the road or campsites, as are the island’s pronghorns or coyotes. Better yet, take a hike to see some of the bighorn sheep in the hills. Yes, the island really is that big. I came around the bend in one hiking trail only to find myself ten feet away from an enormous bull bison. Be alert.

Harriman State Park, Idaho: Located near Yellowstone, Harriman State Park has long been a global destination for fly fishers, who come to fish the Henry’s Fork. But it’s also a great place to critter watch, including moose, elk, black bear, trumpeter swan and white pelican.

Poe Paddy State Park, Pennsylvania: Poe Paddy State Park sits along the beautiful trout stream Penns Creek. Upstream, much of the creek is roadless, so it is one of the best and least crowded hikes in Pennsylvania. In the early mornings, I’ve often cast to trout and had the place to myself. I’ve been serenaded by eastern coyotes while trout rose in front of me. Mink are often hunting crayfish along the banks and hooded mergansers cruise the riffles.

Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, Louisiana: Bayou tours are a popular activity among New Orleans tourists, often involving tour groups. These can be a fine way to see the local alligators, but here’s a way to do it on your own: rent a canoe or kayak at Lake Fausse Point State Park, and head out on the park’s seven-mile canoe trail.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida: One of the largest freshwater springs in the country, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park has a variety of water birds, turtles, alligators and other wildlife. But the big draw is the manatees. Unlike many manatee-watching spots in Florida, you can see them here year round. Daily boat tours allow visitors to get up-close views.

Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas: This park is one of nine state parks that make up the World Birding Center, so you might expect it to be rich in avian wonders. Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park's checklist – consisting of 500 + species – should tell birders all they need to know. This is one of the best places to see tropical species in the United States. During my recent short visit, I quickly saw great birds including Altamira orioles, green jays and plain chachalacas. You might also see a groove-billed ani, a buff-bellied hummingbird, a great kiskadee or many, many other great birds.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Montana: While this state park has some interesting wildlife, including an expansive prairie dog town, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is most interesting for its wildlife history. The cliff here was once the site where indigenous hunters drove large numbers of bison over the cliff to their deaths – providing a huge supply of meat in one effort.