Natural Sound Spots

VIA readers offer up their favorite places in the West for listening to nature.

Pure sound of the canyon wren song

A canyon wren in Zion National Park greets the morning.

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ALVORD DESERT Southeast Oregon. "Among the hot springs that surround the playa," says Kurt Gustafson of Corvallis, Ore., "you can't miss the hiss and sputter of the steam vents, the phlop, phlop, phlop of thermal mud pots, the rumble of summer storms, and the crash of lightning at night." www.fws.gov/malheur.

AÑO NUEVO STATE RESERVE San Mateo County, Calif. "When male elephant seals are defending their harems," writes Dian Duchin Reed of Soquel, Calif., "their large proboscises really boost their sound—like a motorcycle playing bass, amplified." www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=523.

BENSON BEACH Ilwaco, Wash. "The waves crashing on the shore, the wind in the pines, the raucous symphony of gulls and ravens, the trill of sanderlings," says Sparre Strand of Bonner, Mont. "It's hard to believe that all that noise can put you at peace." www.fortcanby.org/visit/cape_d.html.

BUMPASS HELL Lassen Volcanic National Park, Calif. "The mud pots are fascinating to watch," says Susan Grove of Tahoma, Calif., "but it's a greater delight to listen to them burping and bubbling like a witch's cauldron." www.nps.gov/lavo.

EAST EVANS VALLEY Oregon. "You can hear everything here from the near-silent susurration of the breathing forest and the psh of falling snow to the cawing of crows and the sharp barking of foxes," writes Crystal Gordon of Rogue River, Ore.

GRIZZLY ISLAND WILDLIFE AREA Solano County, Calif. "Sitting on the reed-lined bank of a muddy slough, amid a nonstop chorus of birdsong," says Robin Johnson of Stockton, Calif., "we heard the sound we came for—the bugling of a male tule elk." www.suisunwildlife.org/grizzly.html.

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK Hawaii. "On an early morning walk, we were serenaded by unseen songbirds," writes Dorthy Barth of Vallejo, Calif. "We won't soon forget their calls or names: apapane, amakihi, akepa." www.nps.gov/havo.

HISTORIC BAYFRONT Newport, Ore. "Sounds of the sea get translated here," says Marcie Bushnell of Eugene,Ore., "as the staccato barking, deep growling, and nasal huffing and snorting of the resident sea lions." www.discovernewport.com.

MERCED NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE Merced, Calif. "During winter you can hear the wild cries of thousands of Ross's geese and snow geese taking to the air in a huge white cloud, along with the trumpeting of beautiful sandhill cranes," says Dale Swanberg of Atwater, Calif. www.fws.gov/sanluis.

MUSTARD CANYON Death Valley National Park, Calif. "After sunset on a warm day, we heard a little tink out of nowhere," writes Steve Berg of Concord, Calif. "Then tink, tink, again and again, as if the cooling walls had come alive." www.nps.gov/deva.

NATURAL BRIDGES STATE BEACH Santa Cruz, Calif. "Absolutely breathtaking," says Shauna Pepitone of San Jose. "Amid the rustling eucalyptus branches is the peaceful sound of monarch butterflies fluttering." www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=541.

OLD FAITHFUL YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. "When temperatures plummet to 50 degrees below zero," writes Ellen Hardy of Salt Lake City, Utah, "the geyser's water freezes in midair and falls back, making the most beautiful chiming sound—ice harmony—as crystals of varying sizes strike slightly different notes." www.nps.gov/yell.

OREGON DUNES NATIONAL RECREATION AREA Reedsport, Ore. "You'll startle at the sight and sound of an osprey as he dives into the Siltcoos River estuary," says Marlene Lee of McMinnville, Ore. "Out at the ocean, hear the beckoning purr of the surf blended with a chorus of sea lions, gulls, and snowy plovers." www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/recreation/tripplanning/oregondunes/.

POINT LOBOS STATE RESERVE Carmel, Calif. "What better way to lose yourself in sound," writes Regina Mandanici of Napa, Calif., "than to sit on a rock listening to magnificent waves crashing against the cliffs, with a background of barking sea lions and squawking gulls." pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/.

SKWENTNA Alaska. "At dusk, during the Iditarod race, a resting sled dog howled," says Arliene Adams of Eugene, Ore. "One by one the others took it up, until it sounded like a giant choir."

SMITH ROCK STATE PARK Terrebone, Ore. "Often heard is the delightfully teasing sound of voices," writes Robert Barncord of Portland, "either the babble of a festive gathering or a soft whisper. However, it's only the wind, humming and whistling and murmuring through apertures in cracked and fallen rock." www.smithrock.com.

SUNRIVER Oregon. "Walk without a flashlight on a moonlit autumn night and listen to the hoot of a great horned owl and the swoosh of his wings as he follows you through the pines," writes Diana Strand of Sunriver, Ore. www.sunriver-info.com.

VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK Overton, Nev. "Here on Las Vegas's doorstep," says Patricia Kabrich of Las Vegas, "you hear only the sweet sounds of nature's silence." www.parks.nv.gov/vf.htm.

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Photography by Marie Read

This article was first published in July 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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