Consider one or more of these methods to find places you’ll want to explore.
1. On the internet, try the following:
- Visit the website for your county and for neighboring counties. Look for a page called, “Outdoor Recreation”, “Parks and Trails”, or something similar. Many counties have fine public lands that receive fairly light use.
- Check city websites – not just your own city, but nearby communities, especially those on a river or other body of water. Some of my favorite parks are in small towns.
- In year search engine, type the name of your state, then experiment with combinations of words: wildlife area, natural area, recreation trail, wilderness area, and so on.
- Many private organizations open their lands to visitors. Check the websites of organizations like The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and local Audubon chapters. Or type your state, county, or city in your search engine, plus words like, “nature center”, “environmental education center”, or “land trust”.
- If there’s federal land near your home, you probably know about it, but some states have little-known wetland areas managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Type the name of your state in the search engine, plus “Waterfowl Production Area” to see if there are WPAs near you.
- For all of the above, the website should provide information about any trails or parking areas, access points, and visitor regulations.
2. Visit the library and find the magazine published by your state’s department of natural resources or fish/game/parks commission. Splurge on a subscription; it will be well worth the price. Each issue should give you lots of ideas for places to scout.
3. When you’re driving down the road, keep an eye out for the brown signs that say things like, “Wildlife Viewing Area”, “State Park, 2 miles”, or “County Park à”. Instead of driving past, as usual (I know you do this; so do I), take your foot off the accelerator, turn the steering wheel, and take a look.