Nature is good for us. Research suggests that spending time outdoors helps to reduce stress, improve cognitive functioning, and increase happiness. Our time spent outdoors is so beneficial to our health that many medical professionals write nature prescriptions. A bit of fresh air may be exactly what we need.
If you are interested in immersing yourself in nature with a free, family-friendly activity, visit the Fountain Creek Nature Center. You will not be disappointed.
The Fountain Creek Nature Center is located at 320 Pepper Grass Lane in Fountain, Colorado just west of Highway 85. They are open Tuesday - Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. There is ample parking, bike racks, indoor restrooms, a water fountain, and friendly staff at the center. Walking through the door, I was greeted by Jessica, the center's supervisor, who was kind, knowledgeable, and helpful. She credits her bright mood to working in and around nature!
The nature center is a well-designed facility with interactive, educational displays that are great for all ages.
Did you know that making plastic bottles requires 15 million barrels of oil annually which is enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year? I learned that at the recycling exhibit.
There is a display about water usage and ways to conserve this valuable resource. It includes a hands-on bucket and ball activity to highlight how much water is used for specific tasks such as flushing the toilet, running a dishwasher, and brushing your teeth. A fun activity for kids and adults.
The nature center has several taxidermy animals to help educate the community about native wildlife, habitats, and the importance of respecting the space we share with these amazing creatures. There are informational displays on fish, birds, and insects too.
Did you know that tuna can swim in bursts of 50 miles per hour which makes them the fastest group of ocean fish? That is a fun fact from the "Fantastic Fish" exhibit.
The indoor viewing area is quite a site. It has a comfortable chair with adult and kid-friendly binoculars available for use. You can listen to recorded sounds of birds such as the American Robin, Killdeer, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, and House Wren through a telephone near the indoor viewing area while watching for wildlife outdoors.
The nature center is fun for all ages. There is a kid-friendly reading area with books, dress-up clothes, and puzzles. There is also a large container of animal puppets for visitors to use in the center.
I love the "Critter Cam" which shows video footage taken from hidden cameras around the park. These cameras record the nighttime activity in the marshland, and it is fun to see the variety of animals that roam and live in this area.
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." - John Muir
Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area
After visiting the nature center, you can walk the nature trail. It is a 0.6-mile circular loop on a hard-packed surface for easy walking. The trail winds through ponds, marshes, and meadowland where you can see blue herons, turtles, and bullfrogs in addition to a variety of other wildlife. There are several observation decks that allow for a closer study of the marshland.
You will find plenty of benches along the trail if you need to stop and rest or want to sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There are descriptive placards along the path providing information about animals, trees, and insects in the area.
There are also at least two bee hotels you can view from the trail. According to the sign, these "hotels provide a nesting site for solitary native bees."
When you return to the nature center, don't forget to stop at the outdoor observation deck for a beautiful view of the trail you just walked. Please note that no dogs, horses, or bicycles are allowed on the nature trail.
Fountain Creek Nature Center hosts numerous programs and events for all ages. The upcoming events include a pumpkin carving party, a holiday craft show, nature adventures for ages 3-6, "Gobble, Gobble" for ages 2-3, and Homeschool Friday. There is a small fee for the events and programs, but access to the nature center and trail are always free. You can see their full schedule here.
It is good for our health to spend time in nature, and Fountain Creek Nature Center is a perfect place to do it. I'll see you there!
This article is the first of a three-part series on the El Paso County Nature Centers. Please follow me to see the whole series.