The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center was opened in 2000 through the support of the community, donations from local citizens and businesses, and grants. The building functions as a learning center for area residents to become more familiar with their natural surroundings. The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center gets its name from the native prairie planted next to the building. In addition to the educational aspects, the Nature Center also holds the Howard County Conservation Offices and Board Room.
Multiple displays fill the Nature Center. The most popular of these include the live animal displays. A visitor can see two tiger salamanders meandering through their aquarium, native fish swimming through a 180-gallon tank, and a live honeybee display.
Three main animal displays occupy the building. Each covers a separate wildlife habitat found in the county: woodlands, prairie, and wetlands. These exhibits allow visitors to see all the animals that reside in the area, many of which are rarely seen in their natural surroundings.
A separate room of the Nature Center holds the library and touch-and-feel section. In the library, both children’s and adult books involving nature are ready to be checked out. There are also reference books and field guides available for study. The rest of the library room is our touch section. Animal pelts, turtle shells, and snake skins are among the many things that we encourage you to pick up and examine.
The rental of the basement of the Nature Center is limited to business meetings and luncheons and organization meetings. A $25 rental fee accompanies the use of the basement along with a $25 deposit. A full kitchen with limited utensils is provided for your usage.
The Prairie Springs Recreational Trail is located directly adjacent to the Nature Center. This popular, new, asphalt trail travels 2.5 miles through forested bluffs and rolling fields to the edge of Cresco. City trail signs throughout Cresco connect this trail to the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail, a lime-screened trail, which stretches 20 miles through Ridgeway into Calmar. Along the Prairie Springs trail are many shaded benches and picnic tables, giving users the perfect spot for picnics. The trail wraps around the southern edge of the prairie next to the Nature Center and gives the perfect opportunity to see the weekly changing blossoms of the prairie.
The shelter located outside the Nature Center is a popular spot for large picnics, group activities, and family reunions. It is often busy throughout the summer. Therefore we recommend calling the Howard County Conservation Office ahead of time to place a reservation at (563) 547-3634. Reservations for the shelter are available at no cost, but please note that reservations are not accepted on major holiday weekends.
Enveloped by the scenic view of the Turkey River, a newly constructed 46-site modern campground can be discovered in the woods surrounding the Prairie’s Edge Nature Center. Now open to the public, the Turkey River Campground offers campers individual electrical and water hook-ups, camping pads, a bath/shower house, and playground equipment.