By Ryan Costello
|Children look on as busy honey bees work in their observation hive.|
If you are looking for family fun and information about our rich natural wildlife areas, local eco- centers deliver all that and more! Between Clinton and Jackson Counties, three eco centers stand out. Just south of Camanche, Rock Creek, which provides camping, fishing, eco tours, and hiking has a center that has recently been improved. North of Maquoketa, the Hurstville interpretive center provides hiking and wetland bird watching. Lastly, just a few miles from Baldwin lies Eden Valley, which provides camping and hiking.
|Underneath the Rock Creek terrarium tunnel, looking up.|
|8000 gallon fish aquarium at Rock Creek|
Rock Creek’s eco-center has been recently renovated to provide a more hands-on approach to some of our native animals. This includes a terrarium with a tunnel that winds beneath it, so you can get a view of a simulated marshland from beneath. It’s like being on the bottom of a pond or creek looking up at the turtles and small fish that inhabit these areas. They also have an 8000 gallon fish tank with many indigenous species including Crappie, Blue Catfish, Northern Pike, Sunfish, and more. There is also a touching area below the tank that houses mussels and some small pan fish. Rock creek also has a great many scale model species that hang from the rafters and adorn the terrarium area. These were all caught or captured in the Mississippi and Wapsipinicon river areas.
In Maquoketa at the Hurstville interpretive center, many native animals can be viewed in the main center of the building. The have acquired many animals that have been stuffed, and put into simulated areas as though they are alive in their environment. Hurstville also sports an observation hive for European honey bees. Onlookers can watch the comings and goings of these essential creatures, and can literally look into an active hive to see how the bees live. Around the building, there are many trails that wrap around a wetland area, so avid bird watchers can view various waterfowl in their natural habitat.
Eden Valley is a hidden gem, bordering on the Clinton, Jackson county lines. A small camping area is available, and just up the road there is an eco-center as well. It is a bit smaller than the other two, and provides the same kind of wildlife experience and information. This eco center also has an observation hive for honey bees. Surrounding the campground and eco center, there are miles of trails and breath taking upper bluff views of the valley itself.
All of these eco-centers provide interactive stations and exhibits. It is truly educational and fun for young and old alike. For more information visit www.mycountyparks.com
|Scale model castings of fish caught or captured in the Mississippi and Wapsipinicon rivers grace the Rock Creek eco-center ceiling.|