Philadelphia and the surrounding counties hold abundant open spaces, wildlife refuges, bird sanctuaries, and state parks. These treasures provide Philly area residents with seemingly endless opportunities for viewing wildlife. From the mountains to the shore, nature buffs don’t need to travel far from the City of Brotherly Love to enjoy nature.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
8601 Lindbergh Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19153
The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a Philadelphia area gem; a veritable mecca of wildlife. Situated near Philly’s airport, this park is the result of an act of Congress, which moved to preserve the 1,200 acres of meadows, woodlands and marsh because it held the last 200 acres of fresh-water marsh in the state of Pennsylvania. With more than 300 bird species – including the bald eagle – making their home in the refuge, it is an excellent spot for birdwatching. Angling is also popular, as there is a wide variety of fish. The marshes and surrounding meadows and woodlands are home to a multitude of animals including turtles, snakes, frogs, muskrat, deer, and fox.
Nockamixon State Park
1542 Mountain View Drive
Quakertown, PA 18951
Located in Quakertown just an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, the 5,286 acres of Nockamixon State Park are home to abundant wildlife. Lake Nockamixon, one of the park’s most enticing features, is fed by three creeks including Tohickon Creek, Three Mile Run and Haycock Run. The waterway is home to a diverse population of fish as well as a number of water fowl, including a variety of migrating ducks and geese. Eagles and hawks can be spotted throughout the park, as can fox, raccoon, rabbit, deer, turkey, and even the occasional black bear.
The Philadelphia Zoo
3400 W. Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
For more than 150 years, the Philadelphia Zoo has provided visitors with unique opportunities to view and learn about wildlife from all over the world. Today, this Philly institution continues to connect people with wildlife through interactive exhibits that educate and foster appreciation for the diverse wildlife population that lives there. In addition to viewing and interacting with displays, the nation’s first zoo leads the community as an example for conservation and environmental sustainability. In addition to exploring the zoo on one’s own, membership, classes, camps and special events provide myriad opportunities for visitors to see and interact with the wildlife on display.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Mount Joy and Mount Misery Trails
1400 N. Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Valley Forge National Historic Park is much more than a collection of interactive tours and historic monuments. Located in King of Prussia, the park is easy to access and provides amenities that make it available to all. Numerous trails lead visitors through meadows and woods, where they can spot a wide variety of wildlife, including local and migratory birds. With more than 227 bird species making their home in the park or passing through during migration, Valley Forge has gained a reputation for being a wonderful spot for birdwatching.
Wissahickon Environmental Center
300 Northwestern Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Nestled in northwest Philly, the Wissahickon Environmental Center provides visitors with an opportunity to discover and learn about the creatures found in the area. Classes and workshops are held at the environmental center to educate and familiarize the public with area wildlife. In addition to indoor displays, including a large native-fish aquarium, there are numerous trails and a creek to explore. Here, you’ll encounter fish, birds – local and migratory – reptiles and amphibians, and a variety of mammals, both large and small.
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Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.