The 10 Best Nature Centers in Louisiana!

As day to day life keeps chugging along sometimes it is easy to forget where we come from. Immersing ourselves in nature is the perfect way to remember our biological and ancestral roots, take in the peace of planet. Still, nature centers do more than just provide a haven of escape. They educate adults and children on how to restore, preserve, and appreciate the natural habitats of the wildlife in the area. Here are 10 of the best nature centers in Louisiana where visitors can learn, experience, and appreciate Louisiana’s ecosystems. 

1. Cypress Nature Study Center, Benton, LA

Founded in 1977, the Cypress Nature Study Center is committed to educating the public about the importance of caring for our natural surroundings. The site includes an interpretive center, classroom, and animal lab. Don’t miss out on spotting the center’s famous alligators, Claudette and Clovis. Explore the 84-acre forest and wetland area on 4.5 miles of trails. From kids, to parents, to teachers themselves, the Cypress Nature Study Center can help just about everyone learn a thing or two about nature. 

2. Northlake Nature Center, Mandeville, LA

The Northlake Nature centers provides the public with three different ecosystems to observe, including hardwood forest, pine-hardwood forest and pond swamp. The nature center was established in 1982 by the Greater Covington Junior Service League, “as an independent non-profit corporation directed to preserve, study, and publicly exhibit the natural and cultural resources of the Florida Parishes in southeastern Louisiana,” according to their site. Stroll across raised boardwalks to see stunning dams crafted by area beavers. 

3. Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, Baton Rouge, LA

This cypress-tupelo, beech-magnolia and hardwood forest swamp area is flourishing with wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of otters, rabbits, coyotes, deer, turtles, and more birds than you can imagine. This 103-acre facility is devoted to conservation, education, recreation and tourism, according to their site. The 9,5000-square-foot building houses live animal exhibits, presentations of the site’s flora and fauna, mineral displays, as well as a vintage waterfowl decoy carving collection. 

4. Global Wildlife Center, Folsom, LA

This park creates a haven for threatened or endangered wildlife, while providing educational resources for the community. They host over 4,000 exotic, threatened, and endangered species of animals that are able to live in harmony in a totally free wildlife refuge. Guests can visit the park and take a tour just like you are on safari in Africa! The 900-acre grounds that include nine ponds and a lake are beautiful to take in themselves. However, when giraffes, zebras, deer and more come up to the Safari Wagon then the magic of the center truly comes alive. Visitors may even buy a souvenir cup to feed the animals!

5. Acadiana Park Nature Station, Lafayette, LA

Striving to reacclimatize human beings with their natural surroundings. They want the citizens of their community to walk away from their center looking to help preserve and take care off the natural surroundings of the region, restoring the damaged habitats and the organisms that call them home. The Arts & Culture Division of the city of Lafayette runs the six-mile trail system with educational programming starting in 1974, while the station itself was built in 1978. Situated between a Coastal Tallgrass Prairie and the Mississippi River Floodplain the two ecosystems provide for a variety of views, educational, and research opportunities for visitors and center workers alike. They provide three major habitat types including a bottomland hardwood forest on the Mississippi River floodplain, a traditional oak-hickory forest on the encampment, and the remnants of a tallgrass prairie on the prairie terrace. 

6. Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe, LA

Dedicated to protecting and enhancing the ecosystem of the area, this wildlife refuge and educational center opened in 1997 in Ouachita Parish. The 4,500-acre site includes a 1,700-acre lake and gorgeous wetlands. Originally a planter’s home built in the 1880s, the visitor center was remodeled by the organization Friends of the Black Bayou. However, the Conservation Learning Center is a separate building that has wildlife exhibits and aquariums that are home to local fish like the gar. Small reptiles, like snake and turtles are typically on display as well along with baby alligators! The 1,200-foot wildlife preserve pier is great for bird watching, while the mile-long nature trail has scenes of all sorts of wildlife. The wildflower area is a notable sight to see as well. 

7. Alligator Park & Exotic Zoo, Greenwood, LA

Ever wanted to watch live, full-grown alligators feed? Well, here at Alligator Park & Exotic Zoo the whole family can experience this ancient creature. The alligators will both awe and frighten visitors as they are observed in their natural habitat. Test your bravery, by completing the seven-part zip-line that runs over the exotic animals, through the woods, and side by side with the alligators. The petting zoo makes for a friendlier visit where children can walk amongst baby kangaroos, miniature horses, llamas, goats, and more.

8. Barataria Preserve, Marrero, LA

This preserve has several featured attractions for visitors to utilize that are great for educational and recreational activities about the ecosystem. First is the visitor center that has more than a handful of wildlife exhibits that guests can enjoy before stepping out into the park. Then, there is the Wetlands Walk where you can enjoy a guided walk with a ranger on a boardwalk trail through the swamp and marsh. Canoeing and kayaking are also permitted on the property though sometimes overgrowth of plants may block some waterways. The 23,000-acre area includes bayous, swamps, marshland, and forests with all the wild animals that call these ecosystems home. 

9. LSU Hilltop Arboretum, Baton Rouge, LA

This arboretum specifically features a collection of trees and shrubs indigenous to the area. Located off historic Highland Road south of LSU in Baton Rouge, the 14-acre property has an old foot bridge leading to a 20-foot-deep ravine. A tree canopy visitors have come to call the “cathedral” is another favorite sight along with the tranquil bamboo grove. A meadow and tiny pond that has a fine, wooden gazebo also awaits on the property providing views of wild flowers and birds during the different seasons. This arboretum is a little forest oasis in the capital city with information throughout the park. 

10. Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park, Shreveport, LA

This park is dedicated to providing the citizens of Northwest Louisiana with a spot where they can immerse themselves in nature. A pine-oak hickory forest takes up much of the 160-acre nature park that is accessible by five miles of trails. An interpretive building, pavilion equipped with restrooms, and naturalists that staff the are to offer guests with information on the natural region. During the summer, the park truly comes alive with its annual environmental day camp called Earth Camp that is offered to kids. 

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