Places We Go: Spring Creek Prairie

Last week we took advantage of the too-cool-to-swim Lincoln temperatures (and free admission on Tuesdays) to venture out to one of our favorite places, the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. We brought a picnic and then spent an hour and a half or so exploring a tiny bit of the 850 acres of tall grass prairie.

In the visitors’ center are lots of hands-on activities (think magnifying glasses and microscopes and lots of natural treasures to investigate). And one of our favorite things to do is check out a backpack full of guides and tools and suggested activities to help us explore the trails outside. So far we’ve tried the entymologist pack and the ornithologist pack, but they also have a writer’s pack, a photographer’s pack, a burrowing animal’s pack, and maybe one or two more. One of these days, I think it would be fun to have just one kid and really dig in, but even with three kids with varying attention spans and interest levels, it has been really good to have a little guidance. I think we have noticed more of everything when we are specifically on the lookout for something. For example, one of the suggested activities was to collect a fingernail-size sample of plants (or feathers or whatnot, I suppose) for as many colors of the rainbow as you could find. Looking closely slowed us down and ensured we didn’t just breeze past–as I write that, I think perhaps it’s too obvious.  I love to see what observations the kids make. I think I’ve said before that I can never get enough of seeing the world through their eyes.

One of the things I love about the activity backpacks–and that I wish I would remember in our daily lives but seem to need a reminder of each time we visit the Prairie–is the suggestion to start each walk/hike/exploration with a quiet minute: find a comfortable place to sit (or lay), close your eyes, and listen/feel/smell for a full minute. On this last trip, we needed more than one quiet minute because everyone was getting testy. That reset was exactly what was needed to redirect, and it saved the day.

So there’s lots to keep you busy, but really the main thing is that the Prairie is simply beautiful. Like really, really, no-place-like-Nebraska beautiful.

A couple of downsides: if you go on a day that is hot (and we did last summer), well, it’s really, really hot. Not being a lover of hot–let’s be real, I’m a hater of hot–I would recommend choosing a cool day (spring or fall or unseasonably cool summer) at least for your first visit. That way you can fall in love with the place and be more forgiving when you come back on a day when the only way to survive is to pretend you’re a pioneer. And also, ticks. Despite our best intentions to leave the living creatures as we found them, no fewer than eight hitched a ride home with us this time.

If you go, Spring Creek Prairie is open seven days a week throughout the year except on major holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Trails are open sunrise to sunset. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for kids 6–17. Tuesdays are FREE.

We heard about the Prairie from our friends the Steiners, and we joined them for our first visit last year–we immediately knew our first visit wouldn’t be our last. So here are a few more shots from a couple of different visits last year that never got posted.