By Amy Bayer
This winter, take your family to a nature conservancy for an educational snowshoe hike in beautiful surroundings. Wisconsin has more than 50 nature centers located around the state with a variety of features that are as diverse as our state’s natural resources. Check out these destinations that offer excellent snowshoeing trails, equipment rentals and educational centers.
With more than 400 acres bordered by the Eau Claire River, Beaver Creek Reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife and scenery. Explore several different habitats including riparian corridors, wetlands, a flood plain forest, and an upland forest. There are trails throughout the reserve that are open to hikers and snowshoers, as well as trails on that are groomed for cross-country skiing. Winter equipment is available to rent at the Wise Nature Center, which is the perfect place to start your exploration. They host a variety of programs year round. Stop in, grab a map, and check out the animal exhibits and observation deck, before renting snowshoes and seeing nature first hand.
Nestled within the Brillion Wildlife Area, the Brillion Nature Center features an educational center with animal mounts, hands-on exhibits, live native reptiles, amphibians and fish, and a Book Nook with materials for adults and children. Their mission is to provide environmental education opportunities and outdoor experiences. Visitors of all ages and abilities can take part in fun-filled, hands-on environmental programs created and provided by their full-time naturalist and volunteer staff. Learn about the area, and then rent snowshoes and head out on nearly seven miles of trails through prairie, marsh and woodland habitats.
The Pringle Nature Center is located within the 197-acre Bristol Woods County Park and is staffed by a full-time naturalist and volunteers. It’s the gateway to environmental learning in Kenosha County. This beautiful park contains upland forest, wetlands, oak savanna remnants, and prairie areas. Within the woods are four miles of trails that are used for bird and wildlife observation, nature education walks, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The Pringle Nature Center rents snowshoes when there is at least four inches of snow on the ground. The Nature Center also rents GPS units with pre-programmed geocaching activities, guidebooks, binoculars and explorer backpacks.
This 758-acre nature preserve has eight miles of wildlife viewing trails that access fields and a large wetland area, all of which was once a cedar swamp. The earth-sheltered nature center offers guided tours, workshops, classes and programs hosted by staff naturalists. With trails groomed for cross-country skiing, as well as four miles designated snowshoe trails, this is the perfect place to rent equipment, learn about the great outdoors, and explore beautiful surroundings with your family.
The North Lakeland Discovery Center is a place where people can connect with the natural world. Their Northwoods location is serene and remote, surrounded by water and forests, and yet accessible to visitors. Their programs offer learning adventures for adults, families and children. Enjoy skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching along their 12-mile trail system. The trails are tracked for classic skiing, and their snowshoes are available to rent. Trails are open to everyone from dawn to dusk with special evening “moon-shoe” events during full moons. The terrain is gentle and curves through the woods, along the lake, bog and nearby Manitowish River allowing exploration of a variety of habitats.
The Ridges Sanctuary is open to the public year round and features five miles of rustic trails and bridges. The winding trails are perfect for hiking and snowshoeing through the most biologically diverse ecosystem in Wisconsin. The historic lighthouses known as the Baileys Harbor Range Lights are also located here. During winter, experience the sanctuary using a guided hike with a Ridges naturalist who covers the cultural and natural history of the ridges and swales in their “off season.” Enjoy a leisurely hike on level terrain.