Nature Center

 

The Nature Center is located at 330 N. Main St, Crystal Lake. Located in Veteran Acres Park, The Nature Center is an ideal starting point for a hike through the Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie.

Mission

It is the mission of the Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center to improve the quality of life for the community by providing high quality nature-based recreation opportunities which include formal and informal education programs and the preservation and restoration of native ecosystems.

Since the Nature Center re-opened in 1998, we have upgraded and are constantly striving to improve our facilities, but our goals have remained the same. Open year-round, we provide a unique opportunity for anyone to experience nature through progressive programs, hands-on activities, seasonal exhibits and volunteer opportunities. Located in Veteran Acres Park, the ideal starting point for a hike through the Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie.

Nature Programs in Activity guide

Nature Center Hours of Operation

As of Mon, Jun 3, 2024, the Nature Center is NOW OPEN regular hours of operation. Stop by to see the complete interior exhibit renovation, visit the Butterfly House, try a drop-in craft and visit with our staff.

Hours of Operation:

7 days/week, 10 am-5 pm


  • EXHIBITS

    ----CLNC-1902 WEB.jpgSince the Nature Center re-opened in 1998, we have upgraded and are constantly striving to improve our facilities, but our goals have remained the same. Open year-round, we provide a unique opportunity for anyone to experience nature through progressive programs, hands-on activities, seasonal exhibits and volunteer opportunities. 

    In December 2023, The Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center was one of thirty-six Illinois museums to receive a total of $19.7 million in state capital investments to improve their facilities and develop new exhibits. The grant funding amount awarded to the Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center was $363,000. This amount covered a complete redesign and construction of Nature Center exhibits. Many new exhibits were added and existing exhibits were enhanced and updated. On June 1, 2024, the Nature Center re-opened after a 5 month closure to completely renovate the interior exhibits. The Nature Center is also home to the following special exhibits:

    ----CLNC-1822 WEB.jpgBUTTERFLIES AND BEES

    Every summer we have live butterflies fluttering about our Butterfly Habitat. There is no registration or fee required, although a $1 per person donation is appreciated. Our see-through bee hive allows visitors to watch how a live bee hive works in action. The butterflies will begin to arrive and the bees will become most active after Memorial Day through Labor Day.

  • NATURE PROGRAMS

    The Nature Center offers nature themed programs year-round. Please see the current brochure for current programs.

    View ACTIVITIES

    Agents of Discovery

    ----24 AGENTS OF DISCOVERY SLIDE.jpg

    Join the Adventure-Get ready to explore four incredible parks in Crystal Lake and uncover their hidden treasure!

    This summer, once a month a park will be featured and become your playground, filled with exciting challenges waiting to be conquered. In September, the Nature Center staff will continue to create monthly missions.

    Agents of discovery info


    GEOCACHING

    Geocaching is an outdoor activity that pairs GPS technology with an old-fashioned treasure hunt. Geocaches, or caches are small containers that usually have small trinkets to trade and a log book to sign when it is found. Once a cache is hidden, the longitude and latitude are posted on the internet for all to find. Geocaches are hidden all over the WORLD and quite a few in our PARKS.

    All you need for this adventure is a GPS unit. If you are interested but don't know if you want to invest in a GPS unit, we have a limited number at the Nature Center that can be checked out, free of charge. We will then give you a quick "how to" session and you're on your way to finding one of the many caches in Veteran Acres.


    BIRTHDAY PARTIES

    Our Birthday Party Programs are 2.5 hours and consist of 15 minutes for set-up, a 1 hour instructor lead program, 1 hour of 'free time' for gifts and cake (not provided) and 15 minutes for cleanup.

    Fee: $140 (includes up to 15 participants). Each additional guest will be charged $6 at the time of the party. We kindly request a two week notice. Please call the Nature Center to schedule your party. For more information please visit our Birthday Party page.

    view birthday packages

     


    SPECIAL NATURE CENTER PROGRAMS

    THE TRAVELING NATURALIST

    Are you looking for a different idea for your club or organization's next meeting? You can schedule on of our Traveling Naturalists to visit your meeting! These 1 to 1.5 hour programs include hands-on activities and knowledgeable instructors. We have a variety of topics to present within these 1-2 hour programs, or we can tailor a program to meet your needs. Topics include: Formerly Living Things, Silly Science, Our Geological Past, Decomposers and many others.

    Fee: $100

    FIELD TRIPS AND GROUP PROGRAMS

    School Districts, preschools, home school, clubs and more have benefited from our field trip programs. A typical program will last from 1-2 hours and will feature a hike and multiple educational station covering most any nature topic.

    Call for group rates, 815-455-1763

  • SCOUTS

    The Crystal Lake Park District provides comprehensive Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs at the Colonel Palmer House and Nature Center. Classes and Merit Badge Workshops are offered in each seasonal brochure (open to scouts and non-scout)

    View ACTIVITY GUIDE

    CUB SCOUTS

    • Achievement & Elective for Tiger, Bear, Wolf, Webelos and Arrow of LIght
    • 1-1.5 hours of instruction
    • Fees vary by program
    • All instructors have completed Youth Protection Training

    BOY SCOUTS

    • Merit Badge Programs
    • Programs available any time including evenings and weekends
    • Length of programs vary
    • Fees vary by program
    • All instructors have completed Youth Protection Training and are registered Merit Badge Counselors

    GIRL SCOUTS

    • Troops can schedule programs on desired date.
    • Badge and Journey Activities for Daisies through Seniors
    • Cadette LIA opportunities
    • Advisors for Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects
    • Fees vary by program
    • Contact us for programs tailored to your troop's outdoor interests

    Contact The Nature Center

  • VOLUNTEERS

    The natural areas found throughout the Park District offer a variety of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference by helping the environment. Individuals or groups can benefit from the rewarding and education experience of restoring our native ecosystems.

    For questions about Volunteering with Natural Restoration projects, contact Preston Skultety Manager of Natural Resources at pskultety@crystallakeparks.org

    Butternut Nature Preserve

    Volunteer Co-Stewards: Judi Stuck & Nicole Petra

    Woodland and prairie preserve located on a branch of the Kishwaukee River

    Work Days: TBD

    Meet in parking lot on Butternut Road

    Sterne's Woods Fen

    Volunteer Co-Steward: Larry Smith & Brice Alt

    One of the highest quality wetlands in the state

    Work Days: 4th Sunday of the month, 9-11 AM

    Veteran Acres and Wingate Prairie Nature Preserve

    Volunteer Co-Steward: Jim Wigman

    One of our popular sites, this has been formally dedicated as a sanctuary for native plants and animals

    Work Days: 1st and 3rd Saturday of the Month, 9-11 AM, every Tuesday, 2-4 PM

    Meet at the Nature Center

  • CLIMBING TOWER

    The Crystal Lake Park District has a 24 foot tower ready to climb! With three skill levels to explore, the climbing tower allows small groups to enjoy a few rounds of climbing. All required climbing gear is included. Participants need to wear rubber sole shoes suitable for climbing. Weight capacity for climbers is 250 lbs and wind conditions may not exceed 20 miles per hour when tower is vertical. Climbers must have a parent/guardian sign a waiver prior to participation.

    BIRTHDAY PARTIES

    Ages 6 & Up

    One Hour of Climb Time / 2.5 Hours Total for Party

    Max. 12 persons = $250

    SCHOOLS & GROUPS

    One hour of climb time = $125

    Two hours of climb time = $200

    * extra charge for off-site program

    SCOUTS

    30 Minutes of Instruction

    One hour of climb time

    Per participant = $20 (Min. 6/Max. 12 people)

    WE ARE PORTABLE! CALL 815.455.1763 FOR DETAILS