After living here for six years, we thought we had explored all of the hiking trails and opportunities for getting our kids out into nature, but we had missed out on Powder Valley Conservation and Nature Center until this summer. I’m so glad we ventured out (a bit west of St. Louis) to explore their nature center and enjoy an easy hike.
We visited in early August, just as the monarchs were making their way through this part of the country. We spotted three before we even entered the nature center. The thoughtfully planned garden flanking the front entrance was full of local natives, including milkweed. We also spotted a hummingbird flitting around.
The nature center itself is pretty impressive and obviously well cared-for.
There are two floors (the main level and a basement level) filled with interactive exhibits for the kids. The top floor has animal pelts and bones for children to touch and explore…
A spot for playing or putting on a puppet show…
Drawers with all sorts of specimens and facts about the local flora and fauna…
And a table where children can do leaf etchings.
But the boys’ favorite spot was just around the corner where three large aquatic turtles are kept, the most famous, Peanut the turtle, who provided a very important discussion about our responsibility as consumers and friends of all creatures. Rest assured, Peanut is now a healthy 34-year-old turtle who is doing just fine, but the teaching point is an important one.
… while Milo showed interest in the alligator snapping turtle, a creature he apparently knows a lot about (when one of the caregivers of this turtle came over to teach us about him, he asked “Do you know why this turtle holds his mouth open underwater?” Milo responded, “He lures in fish with his worm-like tongue.”) Indeed.
Impressed with the boys’ interest and enthusiasm, the naturalist allowed them to help feed all three turtles (they eat enormous earthworms, in case you were wondering)! They felt so special. Shortly after, we witnessed twin fawns having a snack at the outdoor feeding station (built for children to observe nature up close). They disappeared shortly after into the dark woods.
The lower level contains plenty of opportunity for exploring. It has interactive exhibits exploring underground habitats and creatures, as well as microscopic life found in a single drop of water — amazing stuff!
And last, we headed outside for the hike.
After a short walk across a bridge, there is a trail that is paved and loops around 1.5 miles through woods and next to a creek. Although Oliver let me know (several times) that it wasn’t a “real hike” because the path was paved, I think there is a place for this type of hike. It is a great way to introduce young kids to nature, and it is accessible to people of varying ability.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here. I recommend it to St. Louis families with younger kids — especially during the colder St. Louis winters when you need to get out of your house and play somewhere else!