Visitors to Northwest Trek, the expansive Eatonville wildlife park home to countless species of native Northwest animals, now have an opportunity to get even closer to caribou, moose, bison, and elk.
Starting today, the park is debuting “keeper adventure” tours, intended to give visitors more expansive views of Northwest Trek’s residents in an intimate nine-person setting aboard a specially-outfitted Jeep.
Tours cover much of the 435-acre free roaming area, on little-used paths and often off-road, catching animals grazing, eating, and relaxing.
During a sneak peek of the tour earlier this week, a bison nursed her calf near water, some distance from the paved path. The 12-year veteran keeper, thus, bounced the Jeep across grazing land until it was right alongside the animals, allowing for close-up photography and unrestrained views of the bison.
Unlike the standard three-car tram tour, which carries up to 90 passengers on a generally set route, keeper adventure tours can chart their own course. Keepers can chat with every passenger, then adjust the route in hopes of better sightings of park residents.
That was evident on the sneak peek, when the keeper spotted a cluster of animals just as the tour was set to end. Instead, she circled back, allowing for several minutes of close-up shots with a pair of caribou calves and several deer. One deer came so close that passengers could see hordes of insects on its face. With nowhere else to be, the tour lingered at that spot until the animals began to drift away.
Tours will operate twice daily on most Thursdays, plus many Fridays and Saturdays in August and September.
Admission on the 90-minute tour can only be purchased on-site the day of the ride. It’s $80 for Northwest Trek members and $90 for nonmembers, which includes general park admission.