Pioneers Park Nature Center – A walk on the prairie in Lincoln, Nebraska

Cunningham School at Pioneers Park Nature Center

The Cunningham School was moved from Valparaiso, Nebraska to the Pioneers Park Nature Center.

Prairie life may seem boring. Lots of grass. One-room school-houses. Maybe some deer. However, the Pioneers Park Nature Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, is an educational experience that brings you close to the animals that you would normally never see if you were just standing in a field.

Nestled inside the strikingly beautiful Pioneers Park, the Nature Center’s 668 acres features 8 miles of easy hiking trails that take you through grasslands, wetlands and educational exhibits.

Wander through the trails and you’ll come across natural play areas for children, a suspended bridge over Salt Creek, which is home to the severely endangered Salt Creek Tiger Beetle. Fewer than 200 of the beetles survive to this day.

Bald eagle at Pioneers Park Nature Center

Lincoln Nebraska’s Pioneers Park Nature Center is home to injured animals that cannot be released to the wild.

But the real stars of the show are the larger animals. The nature center cares for and displays a variety of birds from eagles to owls and wild turkeys to turkey buzzards. You can also get a relatively close (but still safe) view of their small herds of bison, elk and white-tailed deer.

Inside the educational buildings, you’ll find screech and barn owls, kestrels, turtles, and a variety of reptiles.

If you have kids, you’ll want to hit up the Nature Center’s natural playground that encourages children to use their natural surroundings to design their own play. Warning: they’ll probably get dirty, but the point is to get a taste of prairie life. Highlights include logs, sticks, pods and sand – or as their website calls it “a treasure trove of experiential learning, imagination and wonder.”

Elk in Nebraska? Yup.

Elk in Nebraska? Yup.

I could not make that up if I tried. I can, however, improve upon it. How about a tag line? “Pioneers Park Nature Center – Come for the Animals. Stay for the dirt.”

That one’s a freebie, Nature Center. Next time, I charge.

All snark aside, if you find yourself in Lincoln, Nebraska, this place is worth a side trip. You’ll get a nice, safe walk and an up-close look at animals for the price of a small donation – or not, if you’re a cheapskate. Don’t be a cheapskate, though. These folks are doing good work and deserve your support.

Website: lincoln.ne.gov/city/parks/naturecenter/

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