5 Beautiful Wildlife to Spot While Paddling & Where to See Them
Paddling is a serene sport that lets you experience the beautiful wild on ground where man wasn’t made to tread - the water. Our lakes, oceans and rivers provide many untapped views you wouldn’t normally be able to access on foot or road. They’re also home to all of the beautiful creatures that occupy our favorite spots in mother nature.
Seeing wildlife is one of our favorite parts of paddling, and getting to observe these wonderful animals in their natural habitat is a spectacle to say the least. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that we’re in their home! It’s crucial to pay respect and keep your distance, as paddling boats and folding kayaks alike are quite intrusive. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of ogling from a ways away. Here are some of the most common wildlife you may see while on the water, and where to find them.
Seals and Sea Lions
Seals are some of the more friendly creatures to encounter while paddling, usually frolicking below and all around your kayak. They’ll frequently follow behind your boat, blasting air from their nostrils to let you know they’re in tow. Their intelligence is about equal to that of a dog, so very rarely do people have issues with them. Always try to stay calm and avoid aggressive or sudden movements, and don’t ever feed them! They’re scattered across the Pacific Northwest, from Washington to California, and always love a good sun tan on a nice day. They’re also a major draw in Kouchibouquac National Park in New Brunswick, Canada, where you can hear their nighttime howl - which is where they get their nickname “marine wolves.”
WhalesWhales are extremely popular across the entire West Coast, from British Columbia all the way to California. In each PNW state there is no shortage of whale watching tours to book, and no shortage of these beautiful beasts to see. If you’re out on a kayak though, they can definitely be very daunting, especially for a creature that’s nearly ten times your size. However, they do have a reputation of being playful and swimming right up to your boat for pets and hangs, and being coined the gentle giants of the sea. It seems that most of these sea-roamers are just happy to see a new face!
Shifting gears to the South, alligators are one of the common sights you’ll see near the swamps, bayous and rivers. While these prehistoric beasts are for sure frightening, it’s more likely snakes and mosquitoes that will give you a hard time. On the bright side, you’re also likely to spot some awesome turtles chilling on rocks, swimming along or just doing their thing. Alligators do retain a natural fear of humans and will rarely stay in the same area as kayakers. However, it’s definitely best to maintain a safe distance - if you find yourself close to one, don’t panic. Calmly back-paddle at least 30 feet and you should be okay - any distance further than that is usually safe for viewing. They are pretty cool looking, after all. The Everglades in Florida, Sabine in Louisiana and almost any Georgia swamp is a great place to get a glimpse of these modern dinosaurs.
We’re talking mainly Black Bears, the social goofballs who will usually waltz right into camp to get a look at your coolers. You’re definitely going to want to maintain a safe distance from them, even when out on the water - because they’re not afraid to get wet. The PNW is a great spot to ogle these bad boys, as well as the Rockies and Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho - go figure. Down in Alaska, big ol’ brown bears (as well as black bears) can be seen strolling the coast or combing the rivers for salmon, which is usually a comfort knowing that they’re plenty well-fed. The safest spot to bear-watch in your K-Pak will be in southern Oregon’s Rogue River, where you’re almost guaranteed to see one. While floating along, you’re bound to spot plenty along the shores and poking through the trees.
There is no shortage of moose sightings in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A float down the Snake River is dubbed one of the best places to spot moose as they poke out through the willows. Maine is another great state to see them on the river, with plenty of tour options for moose-watching. Saint Croix River is your best bet here for spotting a few while floating. One good tip is to keep the volume down - they aren’t extremely spookish but definitely are more prone to coming out of the trees when it’s quiet.
The best way to see them? Our K-Pak folding kayak is a great place to start!