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Winter Wildlife Viewing Opportunities Abound



When winter months arrive in Kentucky, opportunities for wildlife viewing proliferate in the Bluegrass State.

Now’s the time to start planning and reserving places in organized trips to experience elk, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and many other types of wildlife in their natural winter habitats.

Naturalists at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park in eastern Kentucky offer elk-watching tours on many winter weekends through March. These trips provide a close look at a majestic animal that has made a strong comeback after disappearing from the Kentucky mountains for more than a century. Elk, whose numbers now approach 10,000 after being reintroduced in Kentucky in 1997, have found reclaimed surface mine sites to their liking.

Both parks offer weekend packages that include lodging, some meals and transportation to and from the viewing site.  You can get tour dates and make reservations by calling Jenny Wiley at 800-325-0142 or Buckhorn Lake at 800-325-0058.

Elk and another impressive mammal, the bison, also roam freely in the Elk and Bison Prairie, a 700 acre portion of Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area in southwestern Kentucky. Deer, wild turkey and numerous other wildlife species thrive in the prairie, which can be enjoyed via a 3.5 mile loop road.

Bald eagles also are a great attraction during winter in the lakes region of southwestern Kentucky, where their numbers swell to 150 or more as they migrate south from the Great Lakes and southern Canada. The Kentucky State Parks system has offered Eagle Watch Weekends for more than 40 years.

Four parks – Kentucky Dam Village, Lake Barkley, Kenlake and Dale Hollow – will provide guided eagle tours via boat or van in January and February. Make reservations now to participate in one of these tours.

Sandhill cranes are another transient species making a stop in Kentucky on winter migration to states further south. Adult sandhill cranes may be more than four feet tall with a red forehead, white cheeks and a long pointed bill. Their wingspan extends six to eight feet.

One of the best places to view these birds is Barren River State Resort Park in south central Kentucky. See these birds on two weekend trips in January and February organized by park naturalists. More information on the trips is available by calling 800-325-0057.

Birders who wish to view many less exotic species can pursue this hobby at more than 30 of the 51 state parks throughout Kentucky. So don’t sit at home this winter. Grab your camera and binoculars and discover the diverse wildlife of Kentucky.