Campus at the Cape

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 22, 2010

Watch one enthusiastic child bounce between exhibits, around the beehive, to the aquariums, to the bird feeders, and back to the exhibits again, and you know that all the planning, design and construction that went into the Cape Girardeau Conservation Campus Nature Center was worthwhile.

Though similar to other Department nature centers, Cape Girardeau’s was designed for the people of southeast Missouri and showcases the rich cultural history and diverse natural resources of the area. Since May 14, 2005, its interactive exhibits have brought the region’s forest, marsh, swamp and big-river habitats to life for all ages.

Look AND touch

You may want to launch your first visit to the exhibit gallery by stepping into the past. An installation of Native American pottery and primitive tools, donated by local collector Paul Corbin, focuses on historical resource use. Then, imagine yourself living the rustic life as you explore a replica of a trapper’s cabin. Or, see how the corner grocery has changed since 1910 at a market-hunting storefront.

Want to record some natural history of your own? Head to the nature journaling area and document the activities of the birds at the feeding station. Once you’re familiar with this group, try your hand at identifying ducks in the waterfowl blind or imitating the sounds of a turkey.

For a change of habitat, stop by another station to practice your bullfrog calls before you wade through the replica swamp. It will give you an even greater appreciation of this unique southeast Missouri natural community. Anglers and the merely curious can stop at the large freshwater aquarium and admire fish native to the Mississippi River. And don’t forget to take a rare look at the river’s endangered Ohio shrimp, or spy on a tongue-angling alligator snapping turtle as it tries to catch lunch.

You can also learn to match an animal to its tracks, watch the honeybees work in the “Tupelo Beehive,” and crawl through a large-scale version of a beaver’s lodge.

Choose your adventure

The Cape Girardeau County Commission added 50 acres to the existing park system to provide a home for the new nature center. The location within the county park enhances the center’s resources with picnic shelters, a large fishing lake, additional walking trails, and playground equipment.

The rolling river hills of the “White Oak Trace” trail network offer beauty and a workout. Visitors might benefit from hiking shoes and a walking stick because “Tulip Poplar Hill,” “Sinkhole Bottom”

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