Feeling cramped or even claustrophobic at your desk or on your couch? Take a few virtual national wildlife refuge tours with us this week. We have 360-degree panoramas, videos and interactive maps from Maryland to the South Pacific to Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, above, a gathering spot for manatees. (Photo: Tracy Colson)
Between Baltimore and Washington, DC, you can visit Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland. Click on the photo above to meet youngsters learning to be stewards of the environment in their own neighborhood.
The Blue Hill Trail at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota gives you a chance to see songbirds, raptors and waterfowl – maybe even a fox, beaver or river otter. In the fall, thousands of sandhill cranes converge on the refuge marshes at dawn and dusk. Click on the image above to see a video by Jean Davids, a charter member of the new Friends of Sherburne Photo Club.
Now let’s change terrain completely and head to Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Click on the photo above to experience a 360-degree panorama along Wild Fowl Lane in Google Maps Street View. On the real highway, you might see some of the refuge’s 60 species of butterflies or 82 kinds of dragonflies.
Let’s walk the Willapa Art Trail at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state. Artist Brian LaSaga said “an artist struggles to capture what nature effortlessly creates.” Here, the refuge commissioned students from the University of Washington public arts program to create art that teaches visitors about the wildlife and habitat along the path. On the left above, the spinners by John Ivie show the beneficiaries of the salmon life cycle, such as the river otter and kingfisher that prey on salmon chum. On the right above, Gary Carpenter’s work draws attention to often-overlooked minifauna like dragonflies. Click on either photo to go to a more complete photo gallery. (Photos: Richard Nocol)
The elevation of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana ranges from 6,600 feet in the valley to 9,400 feet in the Centennial Mountains. The best time to visit is from May through September. Click on the photo above to take an interactive tour with 360-degree panoramas of the area.
From November to April, Kings Bay at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is home to the largest gathering of manatees in a natural environment in the world. Click on the photo above to get a tour of the refuge.
On the coast of Washington state is Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Click on the photo above to begin a walk along one of the world’s longest sand spits, which shelters a bay rich in marine life. Click each of 11 views on the left side of the big viewing screen to visit a different section of the spit. You can reach the lighthouse at the end of a five-mile hike from the refuge parking lot.
Very few people will have a chance to visit Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, co-managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Pacific Ocean. But clicking on the photo above will lead you to interactive map tours that give you a good feel for the islands. Move the cursor in and out and around to enjoy the whole island, close-up and far away. Then come right up to the albatross – all of them – on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge with this bicycle ride video.