There’s a stark beauty to Oregon in winter, and even more so in its wild creatures — a majestic bald eagle perched in a leafless snag, a regal Rocky Mountain elk bull ranging in a snowy field. Across the state winter wildlife viewing options abound. And thanks to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) — and their handy, interactive maps — it’s easy to find the best spots.
In eastern Oregon, Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer move down out of the mountains to graze in open pastures in places like the Elkhorn Wildlife Area and Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Ladd Marsh is open year round and can be easily access from I-84. Elkhorn is officially closed during the winter to protect the animals, but elk can be seen from the Anthony Creek Viewing Site or with T&T Wildlife Tours, which offer horse-drawn wagon trips to feeding sites. On the west side of the state, Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area is a great place to see Roosevelt elk (the largest of the four elk species in North America) and other wildlife during the winter months. It’s located off of Highway 26 west of Portland.
Some say the best winter bald eagle viewing in the lower 48 can be found in the Klamath Basin at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges and the ODFW Klamath Wildlife Area. Check out the local Audubon Society’s Winter Wings Festival Feb. 17-19, the longest running bird festival in the nation. Near Portland, Sauvie Island Wildlife Refuge is home to overwintering bald eagles, Canada geese, ducks, sandhill cranes and many varieties of sparrow. The Willamette Valley hosts bald eagles at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area and Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge.
A variety of interesting birds and other creatures can be seen during the winter at White River Wildlife Area south of The Dalles, around Harney County, Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge on the coast, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in Portland and Summer Lake Wildlife Area near Lakeview. Search for information and directions to these and more wildlife spots around the state at the ODFW website.