Enjoy A Variety of Wildlife Hot Spots
Anyone who’s wild about wildlife should know about a unique habitat region in the northern part of California wine country. About a hundred miles north of San Francisco, the unspoiled and scenic mountain landscape of Lake County is a significant bioregion teeming with rare birds, elk, foxes, bobcats and large populations of many other wildlife species.
Lake County isn’t just any pastoral, rustic region; it’s a geologically special place where a confluence of natural factors combine to allow the wildlife to roam in great numbers. Between having the cleanest air in America, the largest freshwater lake in California, and much more sunlight than the rest of wine country, Lake County attracts quite a few wildlife-watchers, fishers and hunters.
Lake County boasts a number of distinctive wildlife hot spots where lovers of the great outdoors can see the bald eagles, the rare tule elk, deer, owls and thousands of other wildlife species. Most notably, Clear Lake—the oldest lake in North America and recognized as the bass capital of the west—has more fish per acre than any lake in the United States. Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake is an unparalleled oak woodland that has miles of hiking trails and is a perennial favorite among bird-watchers. The towering Mount Konocti is home to more than 300 species of birds, and its unspoiled Konocti Regional Trails were only recently opened to the public.
Let’s take a look at the variety of wildlife that call Lake County home.
You’ll see hundreds of species of birds in Lake County, an area designated by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA). These include the majestic bald eagles, who pass through in large numbers during the winter, while some keep a permanent home at the Cache Creek Wilderness Area in Clearlake Oaks.
You’ll also see the distinctive great blue heron—the largest species of heron in North America—on hand all year long and highlighted during the Lake County Heron Days festival in late April and early May. Numerous varieties of colorful and fascinating grebes can also be seen in Lake County, dancing across the waters and piggybacking their young while swimming and looking for food.
Lake County is also home to many varieties of songbirds, woodpeckers, pelicans and hawks. Check out our gallery of Lake County birds to see why bird-watchers flock to Lake County every year.
Once believed to be extinct, tule elk are a rare species of elk found only in California. These magnificent animals can often weigh up to 500 pounds, which is small by elk standards, and the males have fantastic, sprawling antlers. The Cache Creek tule elk herd is believed to be the oldest free-ranging tule elk herd left in California, and eagle-eyed wildlife-watchers will never forget the sight of this gentle, wandering herd. They can often be spotted near the hills of Clear Lake and the Cache Creek Wilderness Area trails.
The tule elk can only be hunted by a small number of winners of an annual lottery system. For the rest of the outdoor enthusiasts, they can simply be admired for their impressive beauty.
Lake County is also home to countless species of deer, butterflies, falcons, otters, turtles and more. You can enjoy these remarkable animals freely roaming their natural habitats in a series of guided tours. The Eyes of the Wild pontoon boat tours set sail on Clear Lake with resident experts who are knowledgeable about the animals and their habitats—with specialized tours focusing on grebes, bald eagles and wood ducks.
The Redbud Audubon Society in Clearlake offers free birding tours every month featuring locations of particular interest to birders. Or take a self-guided tour of wildlife watching with a Lake County hike or a memorable day of horseback riding.
Lake County is an endless treasure of wildlife-watching opportunities, with natural resources that ensure you’ll always see some of our finest furry and feathered friends.
Take in all the exceptional fishing, camping and stargazing of Lake County, and you’ll see that the restaurants and places to stay are pretty exceptional, too. Make plans to experience the magnificent wildlife of Lake County, where the call of the wild is impossible to resist.