It's a Capital Idea

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Published on: May. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Where can you go in the Capital City to see a tallgrass prairie, a marsh or a glade? You can experience all of these wild habitats and much more at Runge Conservation Nature Center.

Since the Runge Conservation Nature Center opened in 1993, more than a million people have visited Jefferson City's urban oasis. According to the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Runge is the most visited attraction in Jefferson City.

Runge Conservation Nature Center occupies 112 acres and includes a 27,000 square-foot nature center building. You will feel right at home as you walk through the front doors of the nature center into the spacious lobby. There you can sit and enjoy a crackling fire or marvel at the display of animal mounts, including the world-record, nontypical deer antlers that came from a Missouri deer.

Every other month you will see a new conservation-related exhibit on display in the nature center lobby.

The lobby leads to a 3,000-square-foot exhibit space. Here you can learn about a wide variety of natural habitats in Missouri and how the Missouri Department of Conservation manages them for forest, fish and wildlife resources. You might see a timber rattlesnake, track a deer, listen to the booming sound of a prairie chicken, come nose to nose with a giant bullfrog, and learn how to determine the age of a fish by one of its scales.

Your adventure through the exhibits culminates with a full view of a 3,580-gallon freshwater fish aquarium that contains some of Missouri's freshwater fish species. Inhabitants of the aquarium include largemouth bass, channel catfish and some huge crappie and sunfish.

Across from the aquarium is the "Critter Corner. " It features a living beehive, live animals, a puppet theatre, a magnetic wall and other hands-on activities for children.

At the wildlife viewing area you can enjoy the sights and sounds of squirrels, chipmunks, deer, chickadees and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Native Missouri plants and various feeders attract wildlife. There's also a mini-stream that winds through the area and is fed by runoff from the roof, which is covered with wooden shingles.

Other features inside the nature center building include a gift shop stocked with a wide selection of books, videos and nature-related items, a nature library with books for children and adults, a 200-seat auditorium and three classrooms.

Outside are five nature trails. Walk amid indigo buntings and a variety of butterflies as you venture down Raccoon Run.

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