Nature Centers and Sites

I'd love to add places you know of where people can go to study nature...please let me know what's in YOUR area, and I'll add it.


Close to where I live is the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Center, where I've spent many happy days sketching and studying.  If you're in the Kansas City/Liberty area, check it out! 

Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City's Swope Park is lovely, with a stunning new interpretive building...and of course the Kansas City Zoo is there, too, with plenty of opportunities to sketch.

Powell Gardens, near Lee's Summit, Missouri, is a gorgeous place, a botanical garden with a variety of habitats.

Burr Oak Woods Nature Center is one of the Missouri Department of Conservation sites you won't want to interpretive center, nature walks, library, auditorium and more...

Farther away is the North Cascades Base Camp, with art workshops...check it out!


  1. Kate here are a few places to add adjacent to the Twin Cities, Minnesota

    Hidden Falls Regional Park on Mississippi River Blvd. S. in St. Paul
    Even if you don't go down into the park, just going along Mississippi River Blvd. between the Ford Plant and Highway 5 is a wonderful stretch of bike path that affords many scenic stopping points with overlooks into what was part of the Mississippi River Gorge.

    This gorge extends up to the Franklin Ave. Bridge and is part of the Mississippi Gorge Regional Park
    Between The Shiner's hospital and East River Flats Park you can walk on a lovely paved path through all sorts of native habitat, right on the river, IN TOWN. You can get down to the path just at River Road and Franklin Ave. or down at the Shriners where there is a "road" to take boats (but I think that's really just for police to use as a boat landing, but I'm not a boater). I studied this area for 3 years as one of my Project Art for Nature sites.

    Not to be overlooked, and going right through the urban center of Minneapolis is the Midtown Green Way
    The bike trail is paved, has limited car traffic crossings, and you'll see lots of different birds (not just pigeons, though I admit that's part of the charm for me) including a flock of wild turkeys who like to take over the path down by the railroad crossing just before you get to the Nordic Ware factory.

    Tamarack Nature Center in Ramsay County

    Maplewood Nature Center, in Maplewood, MN (which is a pretty easy drive for anyone in St. Paul or eastern Minneapolis)

    Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, MN (which is right in the Twin Cities)

    Willow River State Park in Hudson, WI
    (I used to go to the back end of this park—Nelson Farm Road, Troutbrook, etc.—and track here for training with my dogs, but it is also a great place to sketch.) (This was another of my Project Art for Nature sites for the first 3 years I was involved in the project.)

    The Bell Museum of Natural History

    If you can't get to the Bell in person my friend photographer Tom Nelson has made gigapans of some of the main dioramas and you can view them through the links found in this blog post

    (You'll get to see the background paintings by Frances Lee Jaques!)

    Hope that gives people some ideas for visits in the Twin Cities.

    1. Wonderful, Roz, thank you! Would so love to see the Bell Museum, I've heard of it for decades.

    2. My favorite spot for observing and sketching fresh water birds (woodcuts, merganser, geese and other ducks, turtles is the Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island. A natural reserve consisting of tall evergreens and deciduous trees, native plants and three large ponds where a variety of ducks spend time mating and nesting. One pond has a 15,000 floating bog for birds to nest. I monitor and record the wood ducks during mating season plus created a watercolor nature journal of my observations there.

  2. The Springfield MO Nature Center has a boardwalk, birdhides, hiking trails through grass and forest, bookshop, many programs, and amazing family friendly exhibits.

    The tree with drawers you pull out of its trunk showing woodgrain, seeds, etc. stay in my memory as one of the magical experiences of my childhood.

  3. Oh yes, that is a wonderful center! LOVE it. The Department of Conservation has some spectacular sites...

  4. Cape Cod has so many beautiful places it would be difficult to list the many beaches, marshes, etc. full of natural beauty at any season. Some faves of mine are Green Briar Nature Center, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, Botanic Trails in Yarmouthport, Armstrong Kelly Park, Heritage Plantation, Fort Hill, et. al. Just can't list them all.


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