Readers of this blog probably know by now that our family is always on the lookout for places around the Chicago area to enjoy nature. We’ve had wonderful trips to the botanic garden, The Grove, and Lincoln Park, among others. And today I’m sharing another nature preserve in the north suburbs to add to the list: River Trail Nature Center.
The River Trail Nature Center is located on the bank of the Des Plaines River and preserved by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. As you arrive in the parking lot, you get a great view of the river. Chicago saw a lot of rain the few days before our trip to the nature center so the river was wider and faster than usual.
What to Do at River Trail Nature Center
As you enter the parking lot, you will find yourself in front of the exhibit building. Take a peek inside and find exhibits housing turtles, snakes and various kinds of other reptiles. Test your knowledge of animal fur and try to match the different kinds with its animal owner.
For the kids, the nature discovery center is a play area located on one side of an exhibit room on the opposite side of the live animal exhibits. A makeshift eagle’s nest and fox den make up a fun play toy for young ones to explore. In the corner, a pretend pond is set up where kids can fish for laminated fish with a magnetic fishing pole. Kids can sit on stools and try to catch the fish, or just be like Buddy and climb over the short fence and grab the fish that way. In the other corner are puppets and a small puppet stage to put on shows.
Once finished in the exhibit building, take a walk outside and explore some of the nature trails around the property. With all of the trails, the River Trail Nature Center is a great place to spend some quality time outdoors and let the kids run around- as long as they stay on the trail.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the outside animal exhibits outside. It was cool to see a coyote, bald eagles and other birds and owls up close. However, the cages were so small that the animals had very little room to roam. All of the animals outside had conditions that would make them unlikely to survive in the wild. They seemed to be well-kept and well-fed but I was sad to see they didn’t have more space.
Aside from the cages, I thought the River Trails Nature Center was a fun place to spend some time outdoors.
Know Before You Go
The River Trail Nature Center is located at 3120 Milwaukee Ave in Northbrook. The grounds are open from 9am- 5pm and closed completely on Fridays.
You should plan for at least an hour there. We spent roughly half an hour in the exhibit building and about an hour walking the trails outside.
Have you ever been to a nature preserve?
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