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EXPLORING ALBERTA’S OUTDOOR NATURE CENTRES

Author: Travel Alberta

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Our twins are reeling with joy over getting to raise trout in their grade four class. Yesterday a math lesson quickly turned to science when some of the eggs transformed into small fry. Since their class enrolled in Fish in Schools (FINs) we’ve been regular visitors at Calgary’s Bow Habitat Station where the program is run. Buoyed by the success of these outings, we took the girls a little farther afield to explore outdoor nature centres in Alberta’s four largest cities.

Bow Habitat Station

I’m actually amazed that a conservation facility of this size is only a five-minute drive from downtown Calgary. The Discovery Centre’s five hands-on exhibits – including a beaver lodge you can crawl through – keep my kids thoroughly engaged. The girls also love feeding the fish, so we always try to join the guided hatchery tour. With upward of 1.5 million trout raised here every year, it’s quite the sight to see. After, we’ll head to the Interpretive Wetlands Trail to see local aquatic habitats, wildlife and plant species.

John Janzen Nature Centre

My girls loved the John Janzen Nature Centre along Edmonton’s lush river valley and spent half of their time at the Teglar Discovery Zone, which focuses on learning through imagination and play. They hid in a toadstool house, climbed a birch tree, watched some busy bees make honey and had a whole lot of fun. Next up was the Prairie Pond where we met some resident ducks, birds and frogs. Another highlight was the Natural Treasures Program. After grabbing a map and GPS from Guest Services we hit the Birch Tree and River Loop trails on a geocaching scavenger hunt.

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

My kids enjoyed seeing the snakes and other small creatures and displays in the interpretive centre but the real highlights of this nature centre was the outdoor playground and the interpretive trails. Adjacent to Gaetz Lake Sanctuary, Alberta’s first migratory bird sanctuary, the trails feature a bird blind where you can watch the birds with binoculars.

Helen Schuler Nature Centre

The children couldn’t stop talking about the animals they met in the interpretive centre. After getting acquainted with some of the long-time animal residents, we joined a guided nature walk and learned about local wildlife, the Oldman River ecosystem and how the unique landscape of verdant v-shaped coulees were formed. Another highlight was seeing a train cross the 1.6 km (.99 mi) Canadian Pacific Railway Lethbridge Viaduct – the world’s longest and highest trestle bridge. Our enthusiastic cheering and waving paid off with a loud whistle blast – a perfect ending to our perfect day.

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