2300 N. Benton Center Rd.
Benton Harbor Michigan 49022United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Don't miss this nature center outside of Benton Harbor--one of the trails is an elevated boardwalk that gives you a view of the forest from the tops of the trees.
This conservation-minded stop on the outskirts of Benton Harbor is a little dated when it comes to the visitor center itself, but the hiking trails and kids' programming are a strong draw for nature-lovers. The visitor center opened in the 1970s, and the exhibits don't seem like they've had a lot of updating since. Kids can pet a domestic rabbit and gawk at several snakes in large glass boxes. The hosts will let you pet the snakes, if you're interested. A back room is full of the standard nature center props, such as various hides, shells and horns. Dozens of mounted animals provide a review of the wildlife common to the area. Large windows face outdoor feeding stations that draw big crowds of squirrels and birds. New ponds outside the center let kids get a close-up view of pond ecology, including the ever-popular frogs and turtles. The exhibits inside probably won't hold most kids' attention for long, though, so families should try to visit during scheduled classes in birding, geocaching, kayaking, pond ecology and more. The center's hiking trails provide an excellent look into multiple ecosystems, including prairies, forests, marshes and fens (a type of wetland). Well-marked boardwalk trails let visitors get into the wild without even getting their feet wet. Don't miss the treetop trail, which takes you onto a long, elevated boardwalk that stands 55 feet above the forest floor, letting you literally get the view from the tops of the trees.