Dodge Nature Center
365 Marie Ave.
St. Paul, MN
Nature Center hours: Sunrise to sunset
Office hours: Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free admission, activity costs vary
Annual membership costs: $60 families, $50 educator’s families, $40 individuals, $30 educator individuals, $30 seniors and $10 students.
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Tucked in West St. Paul and Mendota Heights, the Thomas Irvine Dodge Nature Center is one of the first nature centers of Minnesota. It is a peaceful 320-acre respite from the city, just minutes from I-35E, and five miles from downtown Saint Paul.
What makes Dodge Nature Center so unique is the vast array of environmental adventures one can experience on the property. The land ranges from prairie to wetlands, forest to a working farm. There are also several lakes, a raptor complex, miles of hiking trails, an orchard and a bee apiary.
Dodge Nature Center was founded by Olivia Irvine Dodge in 1967. The original vision for the center has resulted in an extensive curriculum of environmental education, with workshops and activities for people of all ages. Activities for parents and kids alike include family camp, old-fashioned farm chores and ways we can protect our ecosystem, to name a few of the almost daily offerings. Public programs range from learning how a bee keeper extracts honey from a honeycomb to outdoor star gazing. There are even senior programs that teach more about the natural environment, from plants to wildlife.
The Center is free to visit. However, most activities have a cost, ranging from an average of $3 for adults and $1.50 for children, up to $185 for week-long camps. Scholarships are available and there are discounts on many community programs and activities if you are a member of Dodge Nature Center. Annual membership is $60 for families, $50 for educator’s families, $40 for individuals, $30 for educator individuals, $30 for seniors and $10 for students. Beyond program and activity discounts, members receive discounted admission or free admission to sponsored events at the Center and some community discounts. Visit the Dodge Nature Center website for full details.
Trails at Dodge Nature Center are available for walking or running, sunrise to sunset and free of charge. Trails are located on the main 110-acre property, the 40-acres Marie Woodland property, and the 170-acre Lily Savanna property. Dogs are also prohibited to keep everyone safe and the natural landscape preserved. Bikes are not allowed.
Cross-country skiing is available during the winter months on the Lily and Marie property trails. The trails are not groomed, but guests are invited to create their own.
One of the unique programs Dodge offers is the Family Garden Program, which teaches organic farming techniques. The Dodge farm provides 15 x 15 plots of land, the tools necessary and pest control techniques. There are approximately 30 plots available on a first come, first serve basis. Plots are available each year for members at $85 and $115 for non-members.
Another unique benefit for visitors is exposure to a variety of animals. Raptors and farm animals are available for viewing, as well as reptiles and amphibians in participating outreach programs. Upon entering the main campus off Marie Ave., guests are greeted by the Voight Raptor Mew. The raptors have been donated to Dodge Nature Center due to permanent injury or because they cannot thrive after being released back into the wild. It’s a great thrill to see a hawk, owl, falcon and bald eagle up close.
The main office is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are invited to stop by the office if they are on property during open hours to check-in and get more information about all of the offerings Dodge Nature Center provides.
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.