June 29, 2011

Wednesday Wanderings -- Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

I am featuring some of the best places to go in and around Central Iowa.  If you want more information about a particular place, you can contact me through the comments here and place a request.  If you have more information to share about a particular place, let me know and I will get it added.  Look for a new post every Wednesday, unless I get too busy or forget.  

Check the "wandering" tab for more of the posts in this series, or the SSSS tab for more ideas for entertaining the short people in your home. 

This is a favorite, but might be more of a weekend wandering. For us, it's about an hour drive, which goes a little beyond my typical wandering.  We will go for a whole day trip, because there is a lot to do.

Here are just a few great things you can do. 

There are two walking trails that take you through the reconstructed tall grass prairie and give you ample opportunities to spot native wildflowers and animals.  Our favorite is the two mile Tallgrass Trail.  On our most recent trip, we saw many different types of birds, a white tailed deer, a snake, a ground squirrel, and a bunny.  That was with two really loud little girls who ran ahead and screamed back.  Just think if you went with quiet people. 


Along the trail are some opportunities for education.  They show the different prints made by different animals, and the kids enjoyed looking at these, then trying to remember so they could compare the painted prints to the real prints that we saw along the way.

After the walking tour, we went on the auto tour.  You can occasionally see the bison while walking along the Tallgrass Trail, but you'll definitely see the bison and elk when you do the driving tour. 

Our 4 year old called them "spicins" last year, but has sadly corrected her language now. 

The other aspect, and probably one of the best, is the prairie learning center.  A huge indoor facility filled with lots of interactive displays, this is well worth the price of admission (it's FREE, so that's a little joke.)  We were off to a late start on this most recent trip, so we found the center already closed.  We're up for several trips a year, so we'll catch it the next time.

The park itself is open seven days a week, from dawn till dusk.  If you want to visit the learning center, you can do that Monday through Saturday between 9 am and 4 pm, Sunday from 12-5 pm.  As mentioned above, admission is always free.

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