The City of Richfield is three miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and surrounded by highways and interstates. Yet despite the bustling growth of this urban suburb over the years, the Richfield city planners carved out 150-acres of land in the middle of the city for a nature preserve in 1969, which is known as Wood Lake Nature Center today.
Passing busy intersections and condo buildings across from the center’s entrance, it’s hard to imagine approximately 72,000 people visit Wood Lake every year. But once you pass through the artfully crafted gates and immediately view the 4,000 square foot interpretive center and winding paths, you know this urban natural resource means business.
There are three miles of paths, with some of the distance suspended on boardwalks for a bog trek across the wetlands. While I was hiking across the boardwalk one evening I saw cattails, many types of birds and to my surprise, quite a number of turtles in their natural habitat.
If you are looking for more than a quiet stroll among the wildlife, Wood Lake has activities and programs for everyone. Dedicated to environmental education, preservation, recreation and the wildlife that call Wood Lake home, the nature center provides anything from book clubs and bird hikes to earth celebrations and animal shows, starting at approximately $3 per person and ranging up to $76 for more extensive activities. There are adult/child preschool programs as well as day camps for preschool aged children up to sixth grade graduates. My favorite catalog listing is a special spring program called maple syruping. The activity teaches individuals how to identify and tap a tree for collecting syrup. Free for Wood Lake members and only $3 for non-members, the workshop is a sweet deal.
Looking for a unique outdoor birthday party idea? Wood Lake hosts “green” birthday parties for up to 15 children ages 4-12, using reusable dishes, silverware, cups and recycled napkins. Themes range from critter hunts to survival basics. And the best part is parents don’t have to clean up when the party is over. Costs are $85 for Richfield residents, with up to 10 children and $95 for non-residents. Each additional child is $4 each, up to a total of 15 children maximum.
Mini golf is available on the weekends in May and June, and daily from mid-June until Labor Day. Located by the 64th and Portland Avenue entrance, costs range from $6.75 for adults, $5.25 for ages 6-17 years and $5.25 for individuals age 55+. Additional rounds are $3.50. Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
In early May, Wood Lake offers community garden plots at 5844 28th Avenue. Measuring 15 x 20, the plots are available for rent on a first come, first serve basis. (The gardens may not be used for commercial use.) The cost is $30 for each plot, with a maximum of four plots per household.
Contact Wood Lake Nature Center for more information about how you can book on-site shelter rental or participate in events, activities and group programs.
Colleen McGuire is a digital marketing communications professional and author of the blog, Travel Snapshots. When she is not touring the Twin Cities for interesting festivals and events, she is wandering the world with her camera and notebook.
Wood Lake Nature Center
6701 Lake Shore Drive, Richfield, Minn.
Park hours: 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Office hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Free admission. Activities and camp fees vary. Financial assistance for programs is available for Richfield residents who qualify.
Memberships: Individuals $30, Family $50. Sustaining, corporate and life memberships also available.