MDC's Runge Conservation Nature Center celebrates 20-year milestone

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — For more than 20 years, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City has helped connect people with nature. To mark this milestone, Runge Nature Center is hosting a birthday bash from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a “Nature Night Out” from 8 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 13.

The open house celebration will include 20 ways for people to discover nature. There will be a variety of outdoor activities along the five nature trails, such as fishing, archery, and wetland exploration; nature programs featuring raptors, storytelling, and music every hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the outdoor pavilion; plus, indoor activities in the nature center including a photo exhibit, crafts, and the opportunity to meet 20 different outdoor enthusiasts who will be sharing their unique natural connections. These connections range from butterfly watching and birding to paddling sports and turkey calling. The “Nature Night Out” will feature night hikes, exploration stations and a nature movie with popcorn.

Since the Runge Conservation Nature Center opened in 1993, more than 1.8 million people have visited this urban oasis.

“Our anniversary milestone is an opportunity for us to celebrate our time here in Jefferson City, helping people discover nature,” said Runge Nature Center Manager Kathy Cavender. “We will be having lots of activities for those joining us to learn more about nature and just have a great time.”

Runge Conservation Nature Center occupies 112 acres and includes a 27,000-square-foot nature center building. Inside is a 200-seat auditorium, three classrooms, an indoor wildlife viewing area, a nature library, various animal mounts including the world-record, non-typical deer antlers that came from a Missouri deer, and a small gift shop stocked with a selection of books, videos and nature-related items.

Visitors can also explore more than 3,000 square feet of exhibits that lead through an assortment of Missouri's natural habitats, and learn about how MDC manages them for forest, fish and wildlife resources. Featured in the exhibit area are a 3,580-gallon freshwater aquarium, live amphibians and reptiles, hands-on activities for children, and much more.

Venture outside to explore the five different hiking trails that wind through savanna, prairie, marsh, wetland and woodland habitats. Wild turkeys and white-tailed deer are often spotted along the trails.

“No matter your age or ability, Runge is a great place to explore and discover nature,” said Cavender. “You never know what you might see, hear or learn at Runge, as nature is always changing. Each season brings new sights and sounds to enjoy and explore.”

The nature center was named after Andy Runge, who contributed a lifetime of effort to the field of conservation. He served as president of the Missouri Prairie Foundation (1970-1973 and 1982-1983), was a Missouri Conservation Commissioner (1973-1979), was president of the Conservation Federation of Missouri (1986-1988) and was a member of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators (1989).

“Since its grand opening on July 10, 1993, Runge Conservation Nature Center staff has worked hard to find new and innovative ways to connect Missourians with the outdoors,” said Cavender. “We look forward to another 20 years of making Runge a conservation crossroads for mid-Missourians.”

Runge Nature Center is located on Hwy 179 in Jefferson City approximately .5 mile north of Hwy 50. Building hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The building is closed on Sunday and Monday. The outdoor trails are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

For more information on this or other programs, call 573-526-5544 or visit and search “Runge.”