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Pacific Northwest natives thrive at Northwest Trek

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Located near Eatonville, Washington, Northwest Trek is a 725-acre wildlife park, with more than 200 animals that are native to the Pacific Northwest, many of them in a 435-acre free-roaming area. The large acreage and the open nature of the habitat make a visit here much more than a zoo experience.

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Visitors have a variety of ways to experience the park. Included in the admission price is a 50-minute tram tour guided by a naturalist. While the open-air tram meanders through the free-roam area, you get the chance to see caribou, bison, moose, black-tail deer, Roosevelt elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, ravens, Canada geese and more. You pass through habitat ranging from forest to open grasslands to wetlands, along with a small lake. The tour is highly interactive as visitors are encouraged to search for any wildlife missed by the guide and shout out their location. Some animals, especially the caribou, pass only a foot or so from the tram.

Back on foot, pathways lead visitors past bears, cougars, beavers, river otters, coyotes, wolverines, and a host of other small animals, all housed in natural settings. With creatures like beavers and otters, there are opportunities to view them not only from above but also underwater behind large picture windows.

Northwest Trek also offers several self-guided nature trails. One is a paved, accessible loop; the others collectively comprise four miles of primitive trails, including the Hidden Meadow Loop and the walk to Sweetwater Springs.

The Cheney Family Discovery Center features small reptiles and amphibians, while in the Baker Research Cabin, you can learn about environmental conservation through interactive exhibits.

Throughout the year, Northwest Trek sponsors special events for families, for seniors, and for adults and teens. These include Slug Fest, Migratory Madness, and Elk Bugling Tour.

There's plenty of parking on the grounds, plus a restaurant and gift shop. For driving directions, hours, and information on special events, consult http://www.nwtrek.org/

Because Eatonville is not that far from Mount Rainier, you may wish to extend your day with a visit to the mountain. You'll find information on Mount Rainier National Park at http://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm

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