Posts Tagged: driftless nature centers

Myrick Park Center


Myrick Park Center
789 Myrick Park Drive
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601
608- 782-2494

Regular Hours (for center): MondayFriday, 8am to 4pm
Additional Hours open for scheduled Nature Programs
Admission: Free
For more information on WisCorps programming: Contact Steph Hanna at

So quiet is Myrick Park on a recent January afternoon that it would be easy to assume there’s little to do in this gem of a park, the oldest in La Crosse.

That assumption would be wrong.

The park’s sprawling expanse boasts trails for hiking, biking, and running; wetlands for exploring; and a natural play scape for, well, playing. And thanks to the efforts of WisCorps – a nonprofit headquartered in the park that engages youth and young adults in conservation projects on public lands – there are also many exciting educational programs in store for this spring and summer.


Kids ages three to eight will have the opportunity to make bug catchers, play butterfly tag, and (yikes!) catch frogs at the summer day camps offered at Myrick Park from mid-June through mid-August. And they won’t be the only ones having fun in the great outdoors. WisCorps also offers special programs just for adults at Myrick Park on the first Wednesday of each month. “Our evening programs are free and give grown-ups the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of nature, especially that of the Driftless Region,” says Steph Hanna, WisCorps education manager. “They also help remind people of the many benefits of unplugging and spending time in the outdoors.”

Of course parks and celebrations go hand in hand, and Myrick Park will host two big celebratory events this spring. An Earth Fair scheduled for Sunday, April 24, 2016 offers a fun run, a farmers’ market, live music, and a range of kids activities, while the International Migratory Bird Day Celebration on Saturday, May 7, kicks off bright and early with a sunrise bird hike and bird-banding activities.

What not to miss:
Check out all the Myrick Park Center public programs here! Plus add these to your calendar:

Reptile Roundup – Wednesdays, 10 am – 1 pm,
Speak with nature specialists, Matt, as he cleans tanks and feeds critters

Beekeeper Buzz – Thursdays, 10-11:30 am (in the summer only),
Don’t miss checking up on the honeybees in the observation hive during the summer and listen to Ken from the La Crosse Area Beekeeper’s Association talk about the incredible complexity of a beehive.

EnviroWeds – First Wednesday night of every month at 7 pm,
Environmentally themed programs for adults

International Migratory Bird Day, Saturday May 6, 2017

Earth Day marsh cleanupSaturday, April 29, 2017 9 am – 2 pm (lunch provided)

Earth FairSunday, April 30, 2017 from 11 am -5 pm at Myrick Park

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam

Osborne Visitor / Nature Center


Osborne Visitor / Nature Center
29862 Osborne Road
Elkader, Iowa 52043

Hours (April to October): Monday–Saturday, 8 am–4 pm; Sunday, 12 pm–4 pm
Admission: Free, but donations always welcome

A fascinating game of sorts is taking place between the wolf and coyote housed at the Osborne Nature Center on a recent winter afternoon. Seemingly oblivious to a group of vociferous human visitors, the two animals lock eyes through a sturdy chain link fence before suddenly taking off to chase one another along the length of their respective snow-blanketed pens. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, they run until, nearly 15 minutes later, the wolf finally calls it quits.


Photo by Sara Friedl-Putnam

The energetic (and entertaining!) canines are just two of the animals visitors will find at the nature center, a favorite of adults and kids alike. Its native wildlife exhibit, which is nestled amid five acres of pine forest and dates back to the early 1970s, also boasts two red foxes, a black bear (good luck spotting it!), wild turkeys, a bobcat, deer, owls, and a raccoon. “All of the animals have been injured or raised in captivity and would not survive in the wild,” says Joyce Schoulte, a longtime member of the center’s staff. “They are by far the biggest draw of the center.”

Even if live animals aren’t your thing, there’s plenty more to experience at the center, located on 300 acres of land about five miles outside of Elkader. An arboretum includes almost 50 different trees, many native to Iowa and each with a description containing interesting facts about the species. (Did you know white pine trees can live up to 400 years?)

There’s also a natural play scape, a butterfly garden, a simple pioneer village (site of the popular Heritage Days celebration each October), and three outdoor trails, each with a specific theme (nature, conifer, and exercise). The exercise trail – more than a mile in length – has 20 exercise stations for those who prefer to burn their calories in the great outdoors.


The center itself – opened in 1988 as a joint nature center and Iowa welcome center – contains myriad hands-on exhibits; mounted animal displays; and a collection of live snakes, turtles, and amphibians. It’s the centerpiece of an extensive park system operated by Clayton County Conservation that also includes Bloody Run Park (Marquette), Joy Springs Park (Strawberry Point), Motor Mill Park and Frieden Park (Elkader), Buck Creek Park (Garnavillo), and Frenchtown Park (Guttenberg). Programs will be held throughout the parks over the course of the spring and summer, including an Earth Day saunter April 22 at Buck Creek Park and a Mercury transit program May 9 at Osborne.

“Our mission is to give people a place to learn about the environment and to immerse themselves in the outdoors,” says Schoulte when asked what shapes the center’s programming. “It’s also our hope that they also have a lot of fun no matter what they choose to explore here.”

What not to miss: The Mystery Mingle, Munch, Mob program meets April 21, May 19, June 16, and July 21 at Osborne Nature Center. Participants will tour the “mystery” community of the month during an outing that includes an educational program, lunch, and shopping opportunities.

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam

Lake Meyer Park and Campground


Lake Meyer Park and Campground
2546 Lake Meyer Road
Fort Atkinson, Iowa 52144

Hours: Daily, 6 am – 10:30 pm (year-round)

Admission: Park, free, though some programming may have materials fees. Campground (open from April through October, depending on weather): $15 a night for an electricity-equipped site and $10 a night for a site without electricity; no reservations taken. Nature center currently closed for renovation.

Binoculars…check! Hiking boots…check! Pocket field guides…check! Wristwatch…yep, better strap that on too!

So brilliant are the wildflowers, so captivating the birds during spring at Lake Meyer that odds are good you’ll forget “little” details like, say, what time it is should you venture to this 160-acre gem of a park, located off Highway 24 between Calmar and Fort Atkinson, Iowa.


“Years of restoration work have transformed Lake Meyer into a wonderful place for viewing spring wildflowers – come April and May, you’ll see the whole spectrum of native ephemerals,” says Lilly Jensen, Winneshiek County Conservation Board (WCCB) education and outreach coordinator. “It’s also a bird-watching hotspot, especially for small songbirds like warblers.”

More than three miles of scenic trails winding through a variety of habitats and terrain await park visitors. Prairie, wetlands, and woodlands – you’ll find all three native Iowa habitats here, as well as the turtles, snakes, deer, turkey, and other critters that call them home.

You’ll also find a 38-acre lake teeming with northern pike, bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. A handicap-accessible dock and 60-foot fishing jetty offer easy access to the lake for fishing (or just viewing!), and fishing by boat (electric motors only!) is also allowed. Lake Meyer, in fact, offers the only public option to fish by boat in all of Winneshiek County. And while non-motorized boats are not allowed for fishing, canoeing and kayaking are permitted – though you’ll have to bring your own vessel as rentals are not available.


Those looking to unplug for longer than a day can take advantage of some of the most scenic and relaxing camping in all the Driftless Region. The campground boasts 27 electric and eight primitive (non-electric) sites – all are first-come, first-served – as well as restroom facilities with showers and flush toilets. Picnic shelters, a ball diamond, and a playground and natural play scape round out Lake Meyer’s amenities.

The park also plays host to a variety of outdoors-based public programs offered by the WCCB throughout the year. On tap for March are hands-on workshops on building Leopold benches, bluebird houses, and even rain barrels as well as a waterfowl viewing excursion. April will bring an Earth Day geocache hunt, May a workshop on making bird feeders from recycled tires, and June a canoeing and kayaking adventure. (For specific dates and other information, visit the WCCB website or Facebook page.)

“Lake Meyer is a very unique, very family-friendly spot offering a variety of activities and native ecosystems,” says Jensen. “It really is the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy the outdoors.”

What not to miss: A two-part workshop on leaf casting August 6 and August 11. Start with large leaves and concrete and end with a stepping stone or bird bath!

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam