Birding and Nature Observation

With 2.2 million acres of state forest land available for birding and nature observation, the chance to see some great diversity across a wide range of habitats is available to our visitors.  Whether you are looking for species that prefer wetlands, grasslands, or forested ridge tops, odds are good you can encounter it on state forest land.

Bird watching and nature observation are uses that occur throughout state forest lands and the best locations for these activities depend on the habitat requirements of the species involved. The Audubon Society has designated certain areas of state forest land with unique or unusual bird species as Important Bird Areas. These parts of the state forest have particularly large and unique habitats for some unusual bird species. Most state forest lands have diverse habitats and support great numbers of birds. More information on important bird areas can be found at

State forest land with its many roads and trails and generally quiet environment is ideal for nature observation. A public use map of the roads and trails is available from each state forest office to aid nature observers. Natural Areas and Wild Areas are managed with this objective in mind, but the entire state forest system is maintained in a largely natural state. Nature photographers and artists also find an abundance of picturesque natural settings on state forest land.

For detailed maps of each state forest please visit Find a Forest.

Elk Viewing
A major assest in the Pennsylvania Wilds region, elk viewing draws more than 80,000 visitors per year. In September 2010, to enhance the wildlife watching experience, DCNR opened the Elk Country Visitor Center in Bennezette.
Accessible via the Elk Scenic Drive, this conservation education facility is the result of a public-private partnership with the Keystone Elk Country Alliance.


A bull and cow elkElk were extirpated from the Commonwealth in 1867. In 1913 elk were reintroduced into Pennsylvania. Since 1913 through cooperation with the PA Game Commission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and many others, the Bureau of Forestry has taken an active role in the restoration of a healthy elk herd on State Forest land in north central Pennsylvania. The herd has grown rapidly in recent years to an estimated 700 animals in 2002. The elk range covers 865,000 acres of land in north central Pennsylvania. The Elk, Moshannon and Sproul Districts are all actively involved in the restoration project. Some of the activities include habitat enhancement by creating food plots, Elk relocation into new areas and land acquisition for additional habitat. Most elk viewing is done at viewing areas or from a vehicle along public roads. In cooperation with others, elk viewing vistas and parking areas are maintained for this use. Also, in cooperation with many partners, food plots are being intensively maintained in support of elk viewing.