Okanogan Country is home to a wide variety of wildlife, making it a prime destination for anyone hoping to spot elk, swans, moose, or maybe even a cougar. These tips, tricks and secrets to exploring the habitats that are home to local and migratory animals will help boost your chances of success. Don’t forget to pack a pair of binoculars, your camera and some good walking shoes.

Birders of all levels from novice to professional can find a truly delightful experience in Okanogan Country. The wide diversity of landscape and climate attracts birds to the area. The numerous lakes and rivers are a magnet for waterfowl and shorebirds. A variety of songbirds and upland birds make their homes in the high deserts and alpine meadows. Spot any number of black-capped and mountain chickadees; house and Cassin’s finches; red-breasted, white-breasted and pygmy nuthatches; downy and hairy woodpeckers; northern flickers; dark-eyed juncos; and American goldfinches. Many local Audubon chapters are involved in conserving and sharing the variety of beautiful birds to be spotted in the area.

Bald eagle and osprey. (Justin Haug photo)

Alta Lake is a beautiful place to stop to view wildlife. This scenic, deep lake is just a couple of miles from Pateros and is the first trout lake encountered as you enter the Methow Valley. Many species of waterfowl, songbirds and small mammals frequent the shores. Bring the family to explore the shallows for amphibious friends swimming, turtles basking and dragonflies flitting about in the sunshine.

The Okanogan River runs the length of the county and abounds with opportunities to see migratory swans, cranes and a variety of smaller ducks. As the weather cools and the grain fields are harvested, many of these beautiful birds can be seen foraging and enjoying the big open waters. At the confluence of the Columbia River, the Cassimer Bar Wildlife Area provides a stunning opportunity to spot beaver, bear, white-tailed deer, yellow-bellied marmots and other wildlife coming down to the water’s edge for a drink.

Mule deer (Tom Reichner photo)

Many of the public lands in Okanogan Country were acquired for winter range for mule deer and other cervid populations, including the Golden Doe Wildlife Area. Chosen for its biodiversity and extensive riverside habitat along the Methow River, sightings of moose, cougar, and a variety of birds are possible throughout the historic homestead.

Along the northeastern edge of the county is the best opportunity to see resident elk populations. Take a beautiful drive to the historic ghost towns of Chesaw and Molson with your camera and binoculars ready. Continue on the beautiful loop past Beth and Beaver Lake Campground for a chance to see loons, osprey and eagles in this quiet corner of the map. The historic ghost town of Bodie is just another hop, skip and a jump away, while the flash of a snowshoe hare’s white feet might catch your eye from the trail. Don’t blink!

No matter where you travel in Okanogan Country, stop at every chance you get to sample the flavors, culture, friendliness and authentic hospitality — of Washington’s largest county. Free guides and maps at www.OkanoganCountry.com