Our Favorite Spots to Watch Wildlife
October 24, 2018 by: Sharon Roberts
The diverse terrain and unspoiled landscapes of Plumas County make it an ideal place to view Northern California’s rich array of wildlife. During your time in the region, you can easily find and observe deer, bald eagles, and numerous waterfowl. More trained observers can also hope to spot black bears, bobcats, and mountain lions. Remember that the best times to view wildlife are either at dawn or dusk. Viewing wild creatures in their natural habitat is both a privilege and a thrill, so remember to keep your distance and move quietly and with care. And most importantly, don’t forget to bring your binoculars. They will help you get incredible views while maintaining a safe and respectful distance. Here are our favorite spots to view wildlife in Plumas County.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The park’s diverse landscape is divided into two levels: below and above 7,800 feet. Below the fir and pine forests of the park’s dense 7,800-foot level, you’ll find black bear, mule deer, mountain chickadee, white-headed woodpecker, long-toed salamander, and a wide variety of bat species. Above the 7,800-foot level, an area sparsely covered in lovely mountain hemlock, you’ll find Clark’s nutcracker, deer, mice, and many different species of chipmunk. In other parts of the park, you can hope to discover unique creatures like the dark-eyed junco, montane vole, sagebrush lizard, and pika. In the wet meadows along the edges of the park’s lakes and streams, you can find the Pacific tree frog, western terrestrial garter snake, common snipe, and mountain pocket gopher. Also stay on the lookout for finches and ground squirrels throughout the park.
Lassen Volcanic Park is also one of the best places in the region to sight a bald eagle, which is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The peregrine falcon, which was removed from the endangered species list in 1999, also spends time in the park.
One of the most distinct and beautiful species in the park is the California Tortoiseshell Butterfly. These exquisite orange-brown creatures can be seen in the thousands, often at the top of peaks where wind currents have carried them. It is a truly remarkable sight, but remember to be careful during these mass migrations, as they can make for particularly dangerous driving conditions.
St. Bernard Lodge
While St. Bernard Lodge may not be a designated wildlife viewing area, it does not mean we are short on wildlife. Bald Eagles, Osprey and Blue Heron frequent our ponds and can often be seen from the upstairs windows. Guests have also spotted Stellar Jay’s, Woodpeckers, Mallards, Wild Turkeys, Quail, Swallows Blackbirds and in the spring and fall Canadian Geese. Deer, squirrels, muskrats, river otters are very common. Occasional Bear in the summer months and coyotes in the winter months.
Lake Almanor has several spots for watching wildlife, the two best are the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail along the west shore of Lake Almanor and the Olsen Barn and Causeway area at the north end of the lake. The north end of the lake is nesting grounds for Grebes. Bald Eagles and Osprey are often spotted when driving across the causeway. A wolf from the Lassen Wolf pack has been spotted near Olsen Barn several times.
Antelope Lake/Indian Creek
The Antelope Lake-Indian Creek Wildlife Viewing site is part of the Watchable Wildlife national network of viewing sites. You will know the site from the brown road sign printed with a white binoculars symbol. Antelope Lake rests at an elevation of 5,000 feet in the Plumas National Forest and encompasses 15 miles of timbered shoreline. The lake’s many protected coves and meadowlands attract a variety of waterfowl during the months of April through November, including nesting mallards, warblers, great blue herons, cinnamon teal, gadwalls, and common mergansers. Sandpipers, Canadian geese, and herons nest on the many islands that dot the lake. The Antelope Lake/Indian Creek area is also home to black bears, ospreys, beavers, and bald eagles. Antelope Lake is a beautiful 45-minute drive from St. Bernard Lodge. We recommend taking the Indian Valley Arm Road from Greenville to Taylorsville and then continuing on to Antelope Lake. You will pass by many Barn Quilts and ranchland. A stop at Youngs Market in Taylorsville if always fun. Grab a great sandwich and some snacks for a picnic at Antelope Lake. Stop in at the Heart K Ranch, this is a nice area to hike and watch for wildlife also.
Bizz Johnson Trail/Susan River
The Bizz Johnson Interpretive Trail follows the path of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Fernley and Lassen Branch line which was put in at the request of the Red River Lumber Company in 1914. The trail is 25.4 miles long and has six different trailheads to choose a starting point, 12 miles of the trail are along the side of the Susan River. This trail is ranked a premium Watchable Wildlife Viewing area. The trail takes you through three bioregions; Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range and the Great Basin Desert. Besides the variety of wildlife that can be spotted from the trail there are 32 points of historical or geologic interest. Before heading out on the trail pick-up a guide at St. Bernard Lodge. The trail is open to visit by foot, bicycle or horseback. Wildlife that is often spotted include beaver, muskrats, deer, bats, raccoons, porcupines and coyotes. A variety of birds can also be spotted, including Belted King fisher, American Kestrels, hooded orioles, calliope hummingbirds, great horned owls, red tail hawks and other birds of prey.
Eagle Lake is ranked a regional wildlife viewing site. Deer and Antelope can be spotted from different trails along the lake. Eagle Lake is the second largest lake entirely in California and famous for the unique Eagle Lake Trout. Eagle Lake is a unique closed basin hydrology. There is a small interpretive kiosk near the Pine Creek Fish Trap which explains the uniqueness of both Eagle Lake and Eagle Lake Trout. During March and April there is an opportunity to see Eagle Lake Trout swimming upstream to spawn in Pine Creek. If you wish to view this and the fish trap operation call ahead to Fish & Game ( 530-254-6363) to check their availability and schedule. The Osprey Trail at the SE side of the lake is a great trail for viewing Osprey and their nests. Other birds found near Eagle Lake include, White Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Cormants, Grebes, Buffleheads, Egrets, variety of diving ducks and Bald Eagles.
McArthur Burney State Park
McArthur Burney State Park is most famous for Burney Falls a 129-foot waterfall which has over a million gallons of water pouring over year-round. It is also a regional wildlife viewing area. Black swifts and swallows can be found near the waterfall. Blue herons, Bald eagles, mallards and ruddy ducks, Double-crested cormorants, pied-billed grebes can be found near Lake Britton in the park. In the forest area of the park it is common to see both owls and woodpeckers. Coyotes, gray foxes, Mule deer, Northern River Otter and porcupine are fairly common, occasionally Rocky Mountain Elk can be spotted. This is one of the few herds of Rocky Mountain Elk in California. They have the largest antlers of all subspecies of Elk. Burney Falls is a two-hour drive from St. Bernard Lodge. We strongly suggest making it a stop on the way to or from St. Bernard Lodge, guest staying with us several days do make a day trip to Burney Falls and it never fails to impress.
Lake Davis Wildlife Viewing Site
Lake Davis is also part of the Watchable Wildlife network. The meadows and pine forests surrounding the lake are home to Canadian geese, tundra swans, pelicans, bald eagles, and ospreys, best viewed in the spring or fall. The site is a popular bird watching destination. You might also find deer, bats, black bears, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, and the occasional mountain lion. Hike the 7-mile Lake Davis Trail for a great way to get some exercise while viewing the wonderful flora and fauna that surround the lake.
Planning a wildlife adventure through Plumas County? Book a stay at the historic St. Bernard Lodge, located near Lassen Volcanic Park and Lake Almanor.