Local Nature Beckons!

With a cool 30 million followers at any given time, the #GetOutside hashtag on social media is one we can get behind.

While we love the categorization of photos of the vast and often breathtaking outdoors of the world—especially the activities we’re lucky enough to partake in the wild—we have our own bubble of nature beckoning us right in the Fox Cities.

And it’s not just the aesthetic views that we should be looking forward to.

“At this point, the health benefits of spending time in natural spaces are pretty irrefutable. There are countless case studies and research papers, both qualitative and quantitative, that outline the wide-ranging benefits of increased nature exposure,” Zack Bunkers, Community Engagement Manager at Bubolz Nature Preserve says. “Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mood and cognitive function, reduce blood pressure and anxiety, increase physical activity and quality of sleep, decrease pain management needs, and much more.”

“Being inside for long periods of time, especially during the cold or inclement weather, takes a toll on our emotional and physical well-being and many people take to the outdoors to revitalize, exercise and connect with nature,” Mike Hibbard, Director/Naturalist at Mosquito Hill Nature Center adds. “Natural spaces are the perfect places to enjoy the company of others, or, to be by yourself to ‘get away from it all.’”

Discover how to take advantage of #GetOutside movement in the Fox Cities:

1000 Islands Environmental Center, Kaukauna

Mission: To provide children, adults and families the knowledge and skills needed to build a sustainable balance among the environment, economy and community through education, conservation and recreation.

1000 Islands Environmental Center provides the public with a place to enjoy our natural resources. Recreation is provided by the many miles of trails, which can be used for hiking and snowshoeing. Year-round educational programs teach children and adults the importance of the inter-relationships between them and the environment. Inside the Nature Center, you will find live animals, interactive educational displays, a Fox River arrowhead collection, native animals, a gift shop, and much more.

“These days, ‘mindfulness’ is a buzzword to remind us to be present and be in tune with our thoughts, senses and feelings,” the 100 Islands team says. “Before we had smartphones and hyper connectivity, our lives were nothing but moments of mindfulness, and we didn’t need a reminder. It’s a ‘funny because it’s true’ statement, but regardless of where we live or the era we live in, getting out in nature is a great way for us to connect with not only the world around us, but deeper within ourselves.

“As we focus more on mental health in an ever changing and complex time, even just a few minutes outdoors can help us soothe our troubles and anxieties and get back to feeling centered; even if for only a little bit, that can be enough to be of great benefit.”

Surprising fact: “1000 Islands Nature Center and our 350 acres of land are a “Conservancy Zone” with special oversight that makes it different from a park, which is why we have some of the rules that we do such as restrictions on dogs/pets being on the property, biking, smoking and feeding of wildlife, as well as staying on our designated trails when hiking, among others,” the team shares.

“To quote Aldo Leopold, ‘Conservation is a state of harmony between man and land,’ and as such, we certainly promote recreation and enjoying the outdoors for our community within the Conservancy Zone, yet the City of Kaukauna had the wisdom and foresight in the 1960s to designate 1000 Islands as a specially protected area, making conservation of this unique area on the Fox River a top priority.”

March Events:
March 8: 1000 Little Wonders: Kingfishers
March 16: Pancake & Porkie Breakfast
March 30: Famous Women in Natural Resources
Visit for specific details, future events and more.

Bubolz Nature Preserve, Appleton

Mission: To serve as a gathering place for the community to become inspired by, appreciate, and enjoy nature through educational programming and recreational opportunities, while fostering a healthy environment and providing an improved quality of life.

Bubolz Nature Preserve’s unique blend of habitats are what make the preserve such an important natural area in Northeast Wisconsin. They include: both upland and lowland hardwood forest, white cedar forest, tall and shortgrass prairie, wet meadow, ponds and streams. The preserve is geographically located within the Tension Zone. This is where Wisconsin’s Northern and Southern biological communities meet. Because of this, a diverse array of flora and fauna from both of these regions of the state can be found on this site.

This encompasses a wide range of activities and work that we do, from educational initiatives such hosting school field trips, to the manual labor of continually battling invasive species, to community-centered events like our annual Maple Syrup Saturday breakfast, and more,” Zack Bunkers, Community Engagement Manager, says. “So while the preserve is a lot of things, at its core I would say it’s a community hub working to protect Wisconsin’s biological diversity while connecting all people with nature.

“As winter begins to transition to spring, Bubolz offers a variety of ways to enjoy the preserve. We rent our cross country skis and snowshoes so people can get outside and enjoy the winter trails if there is enough snow on the ground. As the snow melts, the trails transition to hiking, and you can begin to see the seasonal changes through early bloomers such as skunk cabbage and marsh marigold.

“This is a great time for bird watchers as spring migrations begin. March is also right in the heart of maple syrup season in Wisconsin, and one of our favorite community events – At this point, the health benefits of spending time in natural spaces are pretty irrefutable.
Surprising fact: “First, there’s a common misconception that the preserve is publicly funded and public land, but we are actually a private nonprofit that receives no government funding. Everything we do here is funded from the community, largely through individual donations,” Bunkers explains. 

“Second is that you can rent our facility for different events (weddings, corporate meetings, fundraisers, and more). It’s a great way to support our conservation and education work, as all proceeds go toward our mission-based initiatives.

“And third is definitely the range of wildlife found on the property. Bubolz is home to river otters, coyotes, bobcats, and even bears! We are located in the Tension Zone where Wisconsin’s northern and southern biological communities meet, so flora and fauna from both of these areas can be found at the preserve, resulting in a highly diverse biological community at the preserve.”

March Events:
March 1: Sit & Stroll: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
March 9: Sap to Syrup
March 23: Maple Syrup Saturday
Visit for specific details, future events and more.

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, Menasha

Mission: To help all people enjoy and learn from nature today and always.

A 94-acre urban refuge for plants, animals and people, Heckrodt Wetland Reserve includes forested wetland, cattail marsh, open water, created prairie, open field, and upland forest. Persisting despite the urbanization that continues to grow around it, the Reserve is home to numerous species of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Migrating songbirds and waterfowl nest and feed in its protection.

Explore environmental exhibits in the 4,000-square-foot Nature Center at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve. Learn about the importance of local wetlands; find aquariums that are home to local fishes, frogs, turtles, and snakes; and experience hands-on activities. The Nature Center facilities feature an interpretive gallery, restrooms, kitchen, solarium, and classroom/rental space.

Heckrodt has a large trail system throughout the Reserve offering spectacular views throughout of various natural habitats and wildlife. Interpretive areas are located throughout the trail system to provide information on the different environments through the Reserve. Find different trail options for your preferred length of walk for the day.

Educational programs offer a variety of topics that are of interest to a broad age range from youth to adults. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve programs are developed by trained naturalists and focus on our local  environment.  These programs are intensely hands-on and designed to foster an ethic of environmental appreciation and stewardship.

“Quality of life is directly related to the environment in which you live, work and play,” Luke Schiller, Executive Director at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, says. “Heckrodt plays a key role in providing a greenspace for both people and animals. The wetlands also filter our water and cleans our air.

“Heckrodt strives to make nature accessible for all people,” Luke Schiller, Executive Director at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, says. “We have over 3 miles of ADA-friendly trails, Wildspace Outdoor Learning Scape, and an indoor nature center focused on discovery based play. Heckrodt offers monthly public programs for families and naturalist lead programs for schools, childcare centers, and summer camps.

Surprising fact: “Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is a not-for-profit nature preserve whose trails are open every day of the year,” Schiller says. “We receive no federal or state funding. Our impact is supported by individuals, foundations and corporate donors.”

March Events:
March 14: Turtle Tots – Hoots Out There
March 23: Sustainable Habitat Build
Visit for specific details, future events and more.

Mosquito Hill Nature Center, New London

Mission: To provide environmental education and recreation that foster understanding, appreciation and sound stewardship of the natural world for people of all ages.

Mosquito Hill Nature Center is an Outagamie County park dedicated to environmental education and outdoor recreation. The nature center is 441 acres located east of the city of New London, situated on the Wolf River. We have nearly 300 acres of Wolf River floodplain forest, 12 acres of prairie planting, Mosquito Hill, one of the highest points in Outagamie County, which occupies approximately 27 acres, with the remaining acreage split among old fields and mixed forest.

The nature center has approximately 5 miles of hiking and snowshoe trails. Our mission is to provide environmental education and recreation that foster understanding, appreciation and sound stewardship of the natural world for people of all ages.

“Springtime is a busy time at the nature center, we have many weekend programs scheduled including a Leopold bench building class, a native pollinator house building workshop, family hikes, a spring wildflower hike and more,” Mike Hibbard, Director/Naturalist, Mosquito Hill Nature Center, says. “Many schools visit us for field trips from late March through early June. We offer birding hikes every Saturday in May. During June, July and August we offer a summer day camp program for children called Summer Ecology Camp. Each session is geared toward a different age group with a different theme. Many people come out to hike the trails and enjoy the scenery. An observation platform was recently constructed on top of Mosquito Hill to improve the vista from the hill, which has been very popular.

“I personally feel that getting outside helps clear my head and gives me time to think and reflect as well as giving me a chance to exercise and get fresh air. Being someplace where I can observe the sights, sounds and smells of nature is refreshing and invigorating. Being inside for long periods of time, especially during the cold or inclement weather, takes a toll on our emotional and physical well-being and many people take to the outdoors to revitalize, exercise and connect with nature. Many people use the outdoors as an avenue to socialize by getting together with others to enjoy nature as an alternative to gathering at a party, restaurant, sporting or other social event. Natural spaces are the perfect places to enjoy the company of others, or, to be by yourself to ‘get away from it all.’”

Surprising fact: “Many people are surprised to know that Mosquito Hill Nature Center is a County Park and part of the Outagamie County Park System,” Hibbard explains. “The nature center was established in 1974, so 2024 is the nature center’s 50th Anniversary.”

March Events:
March 2: Celebrating Aldo Leopold Week: Green Fire Documentary
March 9: Woven Basket with Woven Blessings
Visit for specific details, future events and more.


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