Before the wilderness of the United States was neatly divided and bounded, the earliest pioneers and natives of the land foraged and hunted for their own food. Some believe there is no better way to connect with the land than to harvest and partake in its bounty. Although there are strict regulations on hunting and foraging in most National Parks, National Forests encourage the use of land through ethical harvesting of wild foods and medicines. Use these recommendations as a starting point for your food chasing adventures.
Acadia National Park – Fishing
When visiting Acadia National Park July through September you can sink your hook into mackerel, bluefish and striped bass. You do not need a license to fish in the ocean off the coast of Maine, but be sure to pay attention to the surf conditions and tides. Good places to cast your line are Sargent Drive, Somes Sound, Frazer Point and Schoodic Peninsula.
Everglades National Park – Frogging
Maybe this seems a little strange, but frog legs have been a food staple of the Everglades before they became a popular eclectic dish. You can choose from bullfrogs, pig frogs and leopard frogs. These slimy fellows can be hard to catch in the daylight hours. Make sure to head out during dusk or dawn with swift reflexes. People catching any frog for personal use don’t need a recreational license, can hunt year-round, and have no amount or size limits except in certain areas. But be wary of the pig frog which can accumulate small amounts of mercury.
Capitol Reef National Park – Fruit Harvesting
In the early 1900s settlers to a town called Fruita planted orchards as a cash crop and food source. The last residents moved out in 1969 and the area is now managed by the National Park Service. Over 3100 fruiting trees dot the landscape including cherry, peach, apricot, pear, plum, apple, almond, mulberry and walnut. When the fruit is ripe visitors are welcome to enjoy fresh bites while perusing the orchards. During the designated harvest, you can bag and pay for all the juicy fruit you want in this modern day Eden.
Glacier National Park – Fishing
No fishing license or permit is needed to hook cutthroat trout, burbot, northern pike, kokanee salmon, rainbow trout or lake trout. What you do need is a written description of fishing regulations throughout the park. Many areas are considered closed waters and there are season and possession limits that should be followed. Start at Hidden, Evangeline or Camas Lakes where two cutthroat trout can be harvested in accordance with park fishing regulations.
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park – Sport Hunting & Trapping
For the rugged pioneer, the wilds of Alaska are a challenging and breathtaking place to try your skill at large mammal harvest. When the area was conserved in 1980 the U.S. Congress authorized hunting and trapping in the park and preserve (sport hunting is only allowed in the preserve). In order to hunt here, an Alaska hunting license is required for all hunters 16 and older and hunting regulations must be followed. Caribou, black bear, moose, marten, red fox and snowshoe hare are a few of the animals found in the preserve. You may want to hire a guide considering the size of the brown bears and because the best way to access the area is by plane, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicles.
Virgin Islands National Park – Fruit Harvesting
Some edible fruits you’ll find here are native, while others were brought by foreign settlers to the small island. During fruiting season eat as many mangoes as you can and pair them with the fruits from the Genip tree. Both trees are non-native to the Virgin Islands. A native tree called the sugar apple provides sweet edible fruits that resemble hand grenades. If you get sick of these, try a coconut, passion fruit, papaya or star fruit.
Deschutes National Forest – Mushroom Harvesting
These mushrooms aren’t the kind that produce hallucinations. Matsutake are considered a delicacy by Japanese chefs for their unique flavor and frangrance akin to the piney trees they grow amongst. Formally known as Armillaria ponderosa for their close association with Ponderosa pines, Tricholoma magnivelare catches a sweet price in Asian markets. Because of this, any harvesters must obtain a permit before gathering their dinner. Clean them, marinate them in soy sauce, sugar and oil and roast them on a grill. Most importantly be confident in your identification skills. Your liver and kidneys will thank you.