Utah is a land of contrast and variety in landscapes, in color, in precipitation, and of abundant natural, undeveloped space necessary for a healthy ecosystem full of wildlife. With more than 600 species of mammals, fishes, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, Utah has so much to offer wildlife viewing aficionados, hunters, and fisherman. What's more, Utah's natural palette is among the West's most vibrant, which means diverse backdrops for wildlife adventures. In particular, Utah's fall foliage scene flies under the radar in North America, but is well worth seeking out.
Utah is a fantastic state for birders. The Great Salt Lake and its wetlands, a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site, is a critical annual staging area for millions of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds from the Arctic Tundra to the tip of South America! Make sure to visit Antelope Island State Park and notice countless birds as well as bison, deer, California bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and many other Utah wildlife species. In winter, take a sleigh ride through Hardware Ranch for a chance to observe up close a herd of a thousand or more wild elk taking refuge from the harsh winter environs found in the mountains just above the valley.
Cast your line into the waters of the Green River as you float through Red Canyon. Watch rainbow and cutthroat trout as they dart through crystal clear waters, so many you could imagine taking a dip and grabbing one with your bare hands. This is just the beginning, one of countless special "blue-ribbon" fishing opportunities licensed anglers will discover in Utah. Within this land of color and contrast, hunters are sure to find their bliss. Utah is a haven for mule deer and elk hunting, in addition to a variety of game birds, such as the wild turkey and chukar grouse. Some hunting enthusiasts choose to try their luck at obtaining one of the limited numbers of permits issued to hunt big game such as black bear, bison, or mountain lion.
Located at the northern tip of Great Salt Lake, many birding enthusiasts consider the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge a top-ten site in the world. The 75,000-acre refuge is the migratory stop for millions of migrating birds, including the American White Pelican, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, White-faced Ibis and Snowy Plover. The Wildlife Education Center offers a schedule of family programs, and refuge tours may be available by request prior to your visit.
Spectacular birding, free-range bison and convenient wildlife viewing on craggy Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake are accessible via a scenic causeway from Syracuse, north of Salt Lake. Several trails popular with hikers and mountain bikers traverse the mountainous island and the park serves as a great launch point to explore the Great Salt Lake by boat or kayak. Excellent birding year-round, but especially prolific during spring and fall migrations during which you'll check dozens of birds off your list. The largest island in the Great Salt Lake is also home to a roaming herd of 500 bison as well as mule deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and coyote. Link.
From Kamas, the road winds along the picturesque Provo River through farm and ranch lands and rises to heavily forested, mountain terrain, accented by meadows and rugged peaks. The views from Bald Mountain Pass are breathtaking, across endless miles of forest and ridgelines. The Uinta Mountains and surrounding national forest lands support a variety of wildlife, frequently seen along the highway. Throughout the summer months, watch for wrens, bluebirds, warblers, hummingbirds, sparrows, thrushes and the occasional American Pipit and Townsend's Solitaire. Also look for mule deer, elk, moose, black bear, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, river otter, raptors, and cougar.
Established in 1959, the refuge encompasses 17,992 acres of marshland. Skirting the southern boundary of the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert, the remote springs serve as an oasis for the most-used central route across the United States for westward-bound emigrants. Water is supplied by five major springs, which makes this refuge the perfect habitat for migrating wetland birds to stop and replenish before moving on. Mid-spring and late September are the peak times for viewing.
A great stop on your Arches National Park-area itinerary, the Scott M. Matheson Preserve is 875 acres of wetlands near Moab where birders have recorded some 225 species of birds. Ripanrian species are common in this desert oasis but there is wide species variation throughout the year, especially during migrations and the winter.
Click here for a printable one-sheet (PDF) with a full list of birding sites, annual events like Delta's Snow Goose Festival and additional information about birding in Utah. To enhance your experience, the Great Salt Lake Audubon helped create a Birding Utah app that features maps and searchable details for more than 150 birding areas.