I Spy: Where to See Wildlife in the DMV

D.C. and its suburban surroundings can be a concrete jungle. However, nestled between highways and pavements lay the homes of thousands of animal species. So, take out those binoculars and witness a few furry (or slimy) friends in their natural habitats.

Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr

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See frogs, birds, and turtles at…Huntley Meadows Park
Fifteen-hundred acres of history, beauty, and nature tucked in Northern Virginia, Huntley Meadows Park won’t disappoint. There is a reason this historical park is a favorite among photographers looking for wildlife. Its half-mile wetland boardwalk allows you to get a better peek at the frogs, herons, geese, turtles, beavers, and 200+ identifiedbird species that call it home. If you need a more aerial view, then climb up their observation tower and watch the birds there.

3701 Lockheed Blvd. (Alexandria, Va)
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov


See salamaders, otters and minks at…Kenwilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens
This unique site offers visitors aquatic gardens and a wetland area. As you paddle up the Anacostia River or walk around the historical ponds, you may be serenaded by the five species of frogs or two species of toads. As you walk the boardwalk, you’ll spot birds, salamanders, turtles, and water fowl. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of an otter, fox, minks, or skinks.

1550 Anacostia Ave., NE (Anacostia)
Online: nps.gov

See bass, geese, and groundhogs at…Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary
This wildlife sanctuary is 1670 acres of land that includes four hiking trails, a 4.3 mile Critical Area Driving Tour, and five fishing ponds. Your mini Moby Dick may catch a large mouth bass or blue gill in the ponds. Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary is also great for birdwatching. It’s the most visited hub by Canadian geese on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. You may also spy a red fox or groundhog.

11704 Fenno Rd. (Upper Marlboro, Md)
Online: dnr2.maryland.gov

See owls, beavers, and snakes at…Great Falls Park
You won’t only hear the cascading sounds of the Potomac River at this popular Northern Virginia park. The beautiful views of the river and the 15 miles of hiking trails provide many opportunities to observe wildlife. You may catch the hoot of an owl or the chomping of a beaver. Other animals you may spy include butterflies, moths, deer, and snakes.

9200 Old Dominion Dr. (McLean, Va)
Online: nps.gov 

See bats, deer, and mussels at…C&O Canal
This 184.5 mile towpath is a historical landmark that played an important role for many Washingtonians in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This long path, running parallel to the Potomac River, provides nature lovers the opportunity to see bats, turtles, snakes, insects, and deer due to the woodland and rock formations. Whether by foot, bike, canal boat ride, or horseback ride, you will undoubtedly spot a few animals. And one animal you may find that you don’t usually see is freshwater mussels! If seashell-looking objects are found on the shoreline, then you located these tasty mollusks.

The park has multiple access points. There are visitor centers in D.C. and Maryland.
Online: nps.gov 

See beavers, lizards, and a slew of bugs…Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
The Preserve is 725 acres bordered by Goose Creek to its south and consisting of fields, hardwood forests, ponds, and streams. There are over 20 miles of trails winding through these wetlands and forests; housing foxes, beavers, deer, bats, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

21085 The Woods Rd. (Leesburg, Va)
Online: bansheereeksnp.org

Where do you go to spot local wildlife? Tell us in the comments

–Danielle Larkins


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