Today the kids and I went to visit our local (Helena, MT) Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Education Center. It’s actually a great stop if you want to get to know the Montana native flora and fauna! The facility is housed in a 7000 sq. ft. historic building, and is called the WILD complex.
Walking in, the lobby is like a small museum. There are informative plaques, wildlife mounts, touch tables, and hands-on displays, all great for kids and adults alike. The building is fairly new, and it is very tastefully set up and decorated. It is spacious, and has a varied assortment of displays – from mounted bear, mountain lion, and deer, to live fish in natural-looking, rock surrounded, aquariums. There were various televised displays featuring beautiful outdoor pictures and hunter safety promos, and a lift-the-flap board that taught bear identification between our browns and grizzlies.
My children enjoyed participating in the scavenger hunt that the center offers. There were 2 levels: one for readers/writers, and another for littles. The kids got involved in reading the informative paragraphs, counting the fish, identifying animals, and their tracks. They felt different pelts, found out interesting stats about MT animals, and held carcass bones. There were even jars of different animal pellets…We didn’t really get into that! 😉
But the kids did get into the fun coloring books and Montana Magazines that they received for completing the scavenger hunt; they were also offered bear posters, but that doesn’t really mesh with our RV living! LOL!
If you happen to visit during nice weather, the center borders Spring Meadow Lake (which is more of a pond, but still pretty!). There is a walking path from the center all the way around the lake. The lake features picnic tables (covered and not), nice beaches, shade trees, and docks for swimming or tying up your canoe/kayak. The lake is a popular gathering spot when school is out, but once school is back in session, it’s pretty quiet (which is how we prefer it, hence our fall visit!).
The FWP Education Center is a great place to check out if you are in the Helena area – and it’s even close to the inexpensive Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds campground! Both the education center and the lake are handicap accessible and have adequate parking space, but neither are big rig friendly; we wouldn’t want to take our 40+’ 5er through them. The education center is free to all, but the lake parking is $5 for out of state plates.
If you come to visit our beautiful Capitol City, which happens to be conveniently located halfway between Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP 😉 be sure to save an hour or so to visit this great little museum!