Driftless Adventures -

Driftless Region Nature Centers

by Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos courtesy Driftless nature centers unless noted

Not feeling too spring-y just yet? Dream of the warmer months coming, then grab your calendars and plan ahead for classes and fun at the Driftless Region’s coolest nature centers!

Did you know there’s a place near Elkader, Iowa, where you can peer into the steely blue eyes of a live wolf? Were you aware that Lanesboro, Minnesota, is home to one of the best high-ropes courses in the region? Had you heard that tiny Houston, Minnesota, boasts the only center in all of North America devoted to owls?

Few places can rival the Driftless Region when it comes to offering exciting, fun, and educational nature-based experiences. And (lucky you!) there’s a wealth of nature centers and parks throughout the area chomping at the bit to help you tap in to your inner explorer.

So grab a cup of piping-hot tea or coffee, snuggle up in your comfiest chair, and learn a bit more about what some of the finest nature centers and parks in the region have in store for you in the (warmer) months ahead. Click on any of the links below to learn more!

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

Houston Nature Center

International Owl Center

Lake Meyer Park and Campground

Myrick Park Center

Osborne Visitor/Nature Center

Also worth the trip!

Driftless Area Wetlands Centre
Photo by Kat Busse

Driftless Area Wetlands Centre
509 Hwy 18
Marquette, Iowa 52158

Hours: Tuesday­–Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm (beginning March 16)
Admission: Free

Feeling the urge to “unplug” and learn more about the nature of the Driftless Region? Then be sure to visit the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, opened in August 2013 to connect people to the natural world and empower them to positively impact their local environments.

Hartman Reserve Nature Center
657 Reserve Drive
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613

Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm
Admission: Free

This 340-acre wooded isle located in the heart of Black Hawk County boasts hiking trails through forest, wetland, and prairie, as well as activities for visitors of all ages. Upcoming events include the Maple Syrup Festival March 5–6 – enjoy all-you-can-eat pancakes topped with real maple syrup (tickets required!) – and the Outdoor Adventure Fest on April 2.

Prairie’s Edge Nature Center
11562 Valley Avenue

Cresco, IA 52136

The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center gets its name from the native prairie planted next to the building. A visitor can see a tiger salamander meandering through the aquarium, native fish swimming through a 180-gallon tank, and a live honeybee display. Book early to get a spot at the campground, and be sure to check out the state’s first rock dam, Vernon Springs Ladder Dam, right across the road!


Bio: Sara Friedl-Putnam is eagerly anticipating the advent of spring so she can explore the Driftless Region’s many natural playgrounds with her two-year-old granddaughter and treat herself to a Skills School class or two (Amish bread-making, anyone?) at Eagle Bluff.