IMPORTANT WILDLIFE AREAS
Encompassing two national parks, seven national forests and at least a dozen wilderness areas, the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is the last virtually intact temperate ecosystem in North America. It hosts the largest number of free-roaming wildlife in the lower 48 states. Bison, elk, pronghorn antelope and grizzlies are among Greater Yellowstone's charismatic residents. Gray wolves are back, in healthy, thriving packs, and native Yellowstone cutthroat trout flash through the sparkling streams.
CROWN OF THE CONTINENT:
This wild and rugged ecosystem reaches from northwest Montana up into Canada, and encompasses the headwaters of three of North America's major river systems: the Missouri/Mississippi, the Columbia, and the Saskatchewan/Nelson. On the American side, it includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The jagged mountains, cool lakes, lodgepole pine forests and swift streams are prime territory for grizzlies, elk, mountain goats, eagles, trout and northern pike, among other species.
Strange rock formations rising out of the plains prompted the Lakota Sioux to name this region of South Dakota mako sica, or "bad land." Despite the foreboding name, this prairie region is a thriving, complex ecosystem, home to more than 50 types of wild grasses and 200 kinds of wildflowers. Herds of bison, pronghorn and bighorn sheep wander the lower prairie.
Tallgrass prairie once covered more than 140 million acres of the United States, from Kansas across to Indiana, up to Canada and down to Texas. Just a tiny fraction of this landscape remains, much of it in the Flint Hills area of southeastern Kansas. In that state's Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve live 400 species of plants, 150 species of birds, 39 reptiles and amphibians and 31 mammals. The tall grasses host coyotes, fox, deer, snakes, turtles and rodents, while red-tailed hawks, falcons and golden eagles circle overhead.