The Best Places to View Wildlife from a Paddle Board in Washington State


Washington State is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With its diverse ecosystems, breathtaking landscapes, and abundant wildlife, it offers incredible opportunities to view animals up close from the tranquility of a paddle board. Whether you're a wildlife enthusiast, a bird watcher, or simply seeking a unique nature experience, exploring Washington's waterways on a paddle board will leave you in awe. In this article, we will take you on a journey through twelve exceptional locations in Washington State where you can view wildlife from a paddle board. We will delve into the possible wildlife you may encounter, the scenic backgrounds, and the best times to visit each location based on the seasons.

Key Highlights

  1. Lake Wenatchee: Encounter ospreys and eagles in summer, black bears in autumn, and elk in winter amidst the Cascade Mountains.
  2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge: Spot harbor seals, river otters, and migratory birds within diverse habitats.
  3. Lake Sammamish: Winter sanctuary for migratory waterfowl; summer home to ospreys and eagles.
  4. Lake Chelan: Summer sightings include bighorn sheep and bears, with early morning beaver sightings.
  5. Columbia River: Observe beavers, otters, and eagles along the banks, with salmon migrations in fall and winter.
  6. Lake Quinault: Summer brings otters and eagles, with autumn elk sightings in the Olympic Peninsula's rainforests.
  7. Lake Whatcom: Watch for herons, ospreys, and bald eagles against a backdrop of lush forests and rolling hills.
  8. Lake Crescent: Mergansers and kingfishers dive for fish in summer; black bears forage in fall within Olympic National Park.
  9. Lake Washington: Urban wildlife viewing includes herons, eagles, and harbor seals with a Seattle skyline backdrop.
  10. Spokane River: Spring and summer offer views of otters, mink, and bird species like ospreys and kingfishers.
  11. Lake Cushman: Observe salmon runs and black bears on the shores, set against the Olympic Peninsula.
  12. Lake Padden: Spot herons, kingfishers, and turtles in this serene lake, with songbirds enhancing the spring ambiance.

  1. Lake Wenatchee:

    Located in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, Lake Wenatchee is a picturesque destination for paddle board wildlife viewing. In the spring and summer, you can expect to spot ospreys, bald eagles, and various waterfowl species as they dive and glide above the crystal-clear waters. The surrounding mountains provide a stunning backdrop, creating a serene and captivating experience. As autumn arrives, keep an eye out for black bears foraging along the shoreline as they prepare for winter hibernation. Winter brings a different charm, with the possibility of observing elk and deer venturing near the lake in search of food.
  2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge:

    Nestled along the shores of Puget Sound, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique opportunity to paddle board amidst a rich diversity of wildlife. During the summer months, you may encounter harbor seals, river otters, and great blue herons as they forage and bask in the sun. The refuge's expansive saltmarshes and estuaries provide a dynamic and scenic setting for observing these magnificent creatures. As fall arrives, migratory birds such as sandhill cranes and snow geese make their journey south, offering a spectacular display of avian activity. Winter brings the chance to spot elusive short-eared owls as they hunt over the grasslands. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge does not provide launch sites along the trails and roads to place boat, canoe, kayak, and other float equipment into the water (50 CFR 26.34). The closest boat launch is Luhr's Landing (4949 D Milluhr Rd. NE, Olympia, WA 98516). Personal watercraft within the Nisqually River Delta are limited to 5 mph to minimize wildlife disturbance and habitat damage. The Sanctuary area ( between Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk and Nisqually River) is closed to all boating. The Research Natural Area is closed to all boats from October 1 through March 31. Please follow and obey refuge signs.
  3. Lake Sammamish:

    Located just east of Seattle, Lake Sammamish is a haven for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. During the fall and winter, thousands of waterfowl species, including ducks, geese, and swans, migrate to the lake, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Paddle along the calm waters and witness the colorful plumage and graceful movements of these migratory birds against the backdrop of the surrounding evergreen forests. Spring and summer bring an abundance of bird activity as well, with ospreys, bald eagles, and kingfishers making their presence known.
  4. Lake Chelan:

    Nestled in the North Cascades, Lake Chelan is renowned for its stunning beauty and recreational opportunities. During the summer months, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, deer, and black bears that roam the hillsides. The deep blue waters of Lake Chelan and the towering peaks of the surrounding mountains offer a breathtaking setting for your wildlife viewing adventures. In the early mornings and late evenings of spring and summer, you may also spot beavers busily constructing their lodges along the lake's edges.

  5. Columbia River:

    The Columbia River, with its expansive waters and diverse habitats, is a prime location for wildlife viewing from a paddle board. In the spring and summer, paddle along the riverbanks and you may encounter beavers, river otters, and bald eagles. The majestic cliffs and rolling hills along the river create a dramatic and awe-inspiring backdrop for your wildlife encounters. Fall and winter bring the opportunity to witness the magnificent spectacle of migrating salmon, as well as the predators that follow them, such as sea lions and seals.

  6. Lake Quinault:

    Immerse yourself in the enchanting beauty of the Olympic Peninsula at Lake Quinault. Surrounded by old-growth rainforests and snow-capped peaks, this pristine lake offers a serene setting for wildlife observation. In the summer, you may spot river otters swimming playfully near the shorelines or hear the distinct calls of bald eagles perched atop towering trees. As autumn arrives, keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk as they graze in the meadows surrounding the lake. The ever-changing colors of the surrounding forests in fall create a breathtaking panorama.
  7. Lake Whatcom:

    Located near Bellingham in northern Washington, Lake Whatcom offers a tranquil escape for paddle board wildlife viewing. In the spring and summer, keep an eye out for great blue herons, ospreys, and even the occasional bald eagle as they soar above the lake in search of fish. The scenic backdrop of lush forests and rolling hills creates a peaceful and serene atmosphere. As fall arrives, witness the vibrant colors of the surrounding trees and the occasional glimpse of black-tailed deer moving through the woods.

  8. Lake Crescent:

    Nestled in Olympic National Park, Lake Crescent is a pristine gem with breathtaking beauty. Paddle along its crystal-clear waters and marvel at the surrounding mountains and dense forests. During the summer months, you may spot mergansers, kingfishers, and other bird species diving for fish. Keep an eye out for black bears foraging along the shoreline in search of berries and other food sources during the fall. Winter brings a serene ambiance, with the chance to witness the lake's frozen surface and possibly catch a glimpse of bald eagles perched on leafless trees.
  9. Lake Washington:

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    Located near Seattle, Lake Washington offers an urban escape for paddle board wildlife viewing. During the summer, paddle along the shores and you may spot great blue herons, bald eagles, and even the occasional harbor seal. The juxtaposition of the city skyline against the natural beauty of the lake creates a unique and memorable wildlife viewing opportunity.

  10. Spokane River:

    Flowing through the heart of Spokane, the Spokane River offers a tranquil escape for paddle board wildlife viewing. During the spring and summer, keep an eye out for otters, mink, and a variety of bird species such as ospreys and kingfishers. The scenic riverbanks, lined with cottonwood trees and wildflowers, add to the picturesque setting.
  11. Lake Cushman:

    Nestled in the Olympic Peninsula, Lake Cushman is a serene destination for wildlife enthusiasts. During the fall, witness the spectacle of salmon spawning as they make their way up the lake's tributaries. Black bears are often spotted along the shores, taking advantage of this seasonal abundance. The dense forests, rugged mountains, and pristine waters create a mesmerizing backdrop for your wildlife adventures.
  12. Lake Padden:

    Located near Bellingham, Lake Padden is a serene oasis that offers excellent opportunities for paddle board wildlife viewing. The lake's calm waters are home to a variety of bird species, including great blue herons, kingfishers, and mallards. In the spring, listen for the melodic songs of songbirds echoing through the surrounding trees. As summer arrives, dragonflies dance above the water, adding to the magical ambiance. Keep an eye out for turtles basking on logs and muskrats swimming gracefully through the shallows. Fall brings the vibrant colors of the surrounding foliage, providing a scenic backdrop for your paddle board adventures.
  13. Lake Ozette:

    Tucked away in the remote reaches of Olympic National Park, Lake Ozette offers a pristine and tranquil setting for paddle board wildlife viewing. In the spring and summer, explore the lake's coves and you may encounter river otters frolicking in the water or the occasional black bear foraging along the shoreline. The dense forests surrounding the lake are home to a variety of bird species, including bald eagles, woodpeckers, and warblers. As fall approaches, the vibrant hues of the deciduous trees create a stunning display of colors, adding to the beauty of the lake.
  14. Diablo Lake:

    Situated within the North Cascades National Park Complex, Diablo Lake offers a captivating setting for paddle board wildlife viewing. The emerald-green waters of the lake against the backdrop of rugged peaks create a scene straight out of a postcard. During the summer months, you may spot bald eagles soaring above the lake or mule deer grazing on the hillsides. Fall brings the fiery colors of the surrounding forests, and if you're lucky, you may even witness mountain goats perched on the cliffs.


Washington State offers an abundance of remarkable locations for viewing wildlife from a paddle board. Whether you explore the pristine lakes, meandering rivers, or picturesque coastal areas, each location offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the diverse wildlife that call this beautiful state home. From majestic bald eagles soaring above the water to playful river otters diving and splashing, the wildlife encounters will leave you with lasting memories. Remember to always approach wildlife with respect and keep a safe distance to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the animals. So grab your paddle board, immerse yourself in the tranquil waters, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the best places to view wildlife in Washington State.

Glide Paddle Boards Wildlife tips and where to go paddle boarding.

Here are a few articles to help you find where to go paddle boarding near you and interacting with wildlife. For more tips than those below including sup fishing check out our blog.

For wildlife tips check out our blog and this article on Beginners Guide To Bird Watching. And don't forget to read our article on Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Wildlife Encounters. For other places in Oregon check out these articles If you are looking for some other places to paddle board in Oregon or do some sup fishing then check out these articles, Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Oregon or our article on The Ultimate Guide On Finding Places To Paddle Board Near You And for SUP Fishing The Best Places to SUP Fish in Oregon: Exploring Oregon's Waters for Anglers! For a complete guide on where to paddle board in every state, this one is for you! The best places to paddle board in the United States a state by state tour of where to paddle board with Glide Paddle Boards. Or perhaps something international is what you are looking for, then these two articles will help out. Check out the ultimate guide on finding places to paddle board near you for tips and tricks on finding new and exciting places near you! And for international spots Epic Spots Globally To Paddle Board is for you!