Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in north Humboldt County is well known for its old-growth coast redwoods. Lesser known, however, is another impressive resident, one that happens to be California's largest wild land animal, the stately Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti).
In the heart of the park in a meadow network surrounded by ancient redwoods, these free-roaming creatures are a conservation success story in the making. Once nearly brought to extinction in the area by settlers, Roosevelt elk, the largest remaining elk species in North America, are now on the rebound in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Today the park is one of the surest places to view Roosevelt Elk anywhere, where they can regularly be seen grazing around Elk Prairie near the park's visitor center, and/or nearby Elk Meadow off Davison Road throughout the year.
For the six weeks running from late August to early October, Roosevelt Elk are in rut, the elk's mating season, when bull elk calls can be heard for miles around. Note that elk can pose a risk to people, particularly if approached, so please make sure to respect the animals and state/park rules and give these regal creatures their space. Wildlife viewers should view the elk only from trails and pullouts on the road and use telephoto lenses to get close-up shots.
Beyond Elk Prairie and Elk Meadow, Roosevelt elk are also sometimes seen near Fern Canyon and Gold Bluffs Beach, a 6-mile drive west down unpaved Davison Road (trailers prohibited), as well as at the Little Red School House further south near Stone Lagoon.