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10 of the Cutest and Weirdest Animals in Coastal National Parks

Happy National Estuaries Week! Some of America’s most amazing coastlines are in national parks. Check out 10 places where freshwater meets the sea and where you can find some of the coolest, weirdest and cutest wildlife.

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Elephant Seals at Point Reyes National Seashore

Frank Schulenburg via creativecommons.org

Elephant seals, the earless super swimmers who can spend more than 1.5 hours underwater without surfacing for a breath, returned to Point Reyes in the early 1970s after being absent for more than 150 years due to overhunting.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Chris Evans via creativecommons.org

Early autumn is the perfect time of year to see loggerheads hatching and heading out to the ocean. Mature females often return to the beaches where they were born to nest, which may be 35 years later. Other than that, sea turtles never return to land.

Corals at Biscayne National Park

National Park Service via nps.gov

These bright-colored reefs are found in Biscayne National Park and are some of the most easily accessible to see in the world. The above Elkhorn corals are known as the “giant redwoods of the reef,” but are now threatened and an estimated 90-95% of cover has been lost since 1980.

Whales at Cape Cod National Seashore

Dave Fletcher via creativecommons.org

Whale watching around Cape Cod is one of the top activities to do there. If you’re lucky -- you can see Humpback, Finback, and Minke whales.

Sixgill Shark in Puget Sound at the base of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Greg Amptman

Typically found at depths of below 200 feet (and even up to 8,000 feet), sixgills generally avoid shallow waters. However, they have been sighted in waters as shallow as 20 feet in Puget Sound— providing a rare opportunity to learn more about these elusive creatures, which have been around since before the dinosaurs.

Puffins at Kenai Fjords National Park

National Park Service / Jim Pfeiffenberger

Both horned and tufted puffins are found in Kenai Fjords and are equally comfortable on land or in the water, as they swim to catch prey. These adorable birds form long-term pair mating bonds.

American Crocodile at Everglades National Park

National Park Service Photo by Rodney Cammauf

While alligators are much more common throughout the Southeastern United States, American crocodiles are rarely seen. Finding them in Everglades National Park is a snap – the park is the only place in the country where both crocodiles and alligators live together.

River Otters at Olympic National Park

National Park Service / Courtesy Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours

A group of river otters is known as a romp; given their playful nature, it's a very accurate description. River otters are found on the outer coast peninsula in Olympic where they forage for food in the intertidal pools.

Atlantic Sturgeon at Colonial National Historical Park

http://U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Considered a “dinosaur” fish, these prehistoric animals have existed for 120 million years and are the largest fish in the Chesapeake, weighing up to 800 pounds.

Pipefish and Seahorses at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Matt Sullivan via creativecommons.org

Pipefish and seahorses can be found snorkeling in the bay-side waters in the marine grasses of Gulf Islands. With these unique animals, the males carry the babies and give birth.

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