Autumn Escapades: Nature Centers

By | November 5, 2012

When Grace went back to school, Tater and I were at a loss. So much of his time is spent playing with his sister. Now that he was an “only child,” we had some retooling to do. This past summer I visited a lot of area parks doing research for a book. Many of them have nature centers, and I remembered all the time wishing my kids were with me.

So Tater and I decided we needed to check ‘em out. The big question for me was, Are nature centers any fun in the fall? (Heck, are they even open, or are they more seasonal then I imagine.)

Our first trek took us to the Indian Springs Metropark. The swampy sections of the park are the headwaters for the Huron River, which gains much in the way of volume and dignity between here and Lake Erie. The Environmental Discovery Center, as it’s called, overlooks a small pond.

Most of our time was spent outside, looking for snakes and frogs along the shore. Since this is classic massasauga rattler habitat, I was glad it was a cold day. A small brook connects the main pond with a smaller adjacent pond. Much time was spent watching the water flowing between the two.

One of the big attractions at Indian Springs (one surprisingly few people know about) is the Pond Room. The lower level (i.e. basement) of the nature center is below the level of the pond—roughly the same level as the pond floor. A clear tunnel leads out from the main building under the water to a circular domed room. From here you can watch fish swim by and get a close look at the habitat created by logs that have fallen to the bottom.

The Pond Room is my favorite part of the site, but, frankly, it kind of freaked Tater out. Confined underwater spaces, apparently, aren’t his thing. So after the Pond Room we went upstairs and looked at some of the animals on exhibit—a garter snake, salamander, turtles.

All in all a good visit, and Tater now tells his sister that the nature center is “his and daddy’s place,” which is kind of nice too.

Next week we’ll look for someone showing off animals. I think the boy is itching to hold a snake.

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