Watch the mystery of natural events unfold before you. This popular wooded area occupies 1400 acres of beautiful Nebraska ... More
Fontenelle Forest Nature Center
Watch the mystery of natural events unfold before you. This popular wooded area occupies 1400 acres of beautiful Nebraska forest and floodplains situated along the Missouri River. Sixteen miles of trails meander through picturesque land for hikers and birdwatchers. The visitor center offers interactive educational exhibits, a one-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, a gift shop and more. Facilities for parties, meetings and receptions are also available.
I have been a member for several years and I never get tired of this place. There are several miles of trails in a very pretty forested area near the Missouri River. They also have a nice boardwalk near the main visitor center, good if you want an easy stroll rather than a more difficult hike. The boardwalk area can be crowded at times, but I've never had a problem with crowds anywhere else. Wear bug spray; there is a large marshy area and thus mosquitoes.
My only complaint is that the price of admission is frankly a bit high. The visitor center is nice and they do offer some other activities and programs for children, but if you're just coming to hike the price is too much. However, it's quite easy to get in without paying if you park at the lower area near Gifford Farm. This is usually where I park and I've been asked to show my membership card exactly once - and I didn't have it with me and they let me in anyway.
I'm not talking about the bug exhibit which is what I tried to take my family to see. On our way into the building from our car we noticed a few mosquitoes but it wasn't too bad. After we paid the old lady at the counter she asked if we had bug spray. If not I could buy a tiny bottle of it for $8. We said no thanks because we couldn't even use it on my 7 month old son anyway.
As soon as we exited the back of the building to go and see the bug exhibit we were swarmed with mosquitoes. After less than one minute outside I think there were about 20+ mosquitoes on my wifes back and more swarming around my son. We then went back inside and said that this was not going to work. They asked us if we would want to go downstairs to their indoor exhibit and told us to grab a few trinkets from a pile of crap that they pass out to kids. So we went downstairs to see the exhibit and it was nothing more than a couple aquariums with tiny little turtles and things.
When we came back upstairs we were greeted by another woman and I asked if we could have a refund. She asked if we had fun. First thought was "What kind of idiot are you? I just asked if I could have a refund because we couldn't even get to the exhibit that we paid $7 a person to see." We said NO we did not have fun because of all the mosquitoes and we couldn't even see the exhibit outside. She said "Yeah, I think there is a warning or something." I was so furious that we just left because at that point the mosquitoes had made their way inside the building.
If there is a mosquito warning TELL PEOPLE BEFORE THEY PAY TO GET IN! Especially those with young children.
Bottom line is this place sucks. Avoid it if you can.
I returned with my boys to visit...and a few years older they (especially my 8-yr old) still enjoyed the exhibits and night sounds room. Nice hike to the river. Great signs and map once you leave the boardwalk...but the boardwalk area was very confusing and warrants markers! The hardest thing for us was finding our way off the boardwalk to get to the trails! They should put a sign after you cross the tracks enroute to the rivier that you have to go to the right 10-15 yards to pick up the trail!
My 12 yr old went to a fabulous preschool program when we were here, and loved summer camps...glad to see those are still happening. Great place...I remember being amazed when this new center was built, (the little building/center that preceeded it was so...modest in comparison)!
The trails aren't maintained away from the building - if you go too far from the building you might get lost. Plus the exhibits are falling down inside. I won't renew - they apparently have better things to do with their time then maintain the areas the public can go.
Fontenelle forest offers a great variety of hiking habitats, from flood plain forests, to wooded marsh lands, to hills (some steep!). Nestled between an oxbow bend in the Missouri River, this is an excellent location to view wildflife. Additionally, the visitor center offers nice exhibits and a boardwalk into the forest. If you are looking to get away from the busier visitor center trails, consider driving towards the Gifford Farm and hike the flood plain and marshes.
Great Hiking for the region. Not much offered in this area but in the fall especially this is a beautiful set of trails. Spring is also a great time to go. summer hiking is not too hot with the great canopy.
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