At the beginning of March, two other travel writers, a VisitRainier employee and I experienced the feeding of the elk at Oak Creek Feeding Station, off Highway 12 near Naches in Eastern Washington (yes, it was a press trip). We got close enough to these four-legged giants to make eye contact.
This supplemental feeding program, began in 1945. It was adopted so that the elk wouldn’t venture into any of the agricultural areas nearby looking for food in the winter. Depending on the weather, feedings begin sometime in December and continue until March. If you visit in January or February, you’ll have the best chance of participating.
Everything is free – you just have to sign up and put your John Henry on a disclaimer. Then you can ride out into the field in a U.S. Army truck and witness the feeding of as many as 700 elk at a time. While you patiently wait your driver dispenses facts and figures about the program and cows and bulls snuffle and shift positions anticipating the upcoming buffet of hay. Then two other vehicles roll out and automatically start dispensing the bales while the regal animals jockey for position.
A bull can weigh up to 600 pounds, but they have no interest in the humans staring at them. They only want the food so you’re safe.
I have never witnessed anything like this and highly recommend it as a family outing.
Here’s a story my friend Carrie Uffindall wrote about it:
Arrive before 1 p.m. to check in, visit the small museum and watch the elk head down the hill for lunch.