The Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center is located in Joplin, Missouri, a small town in the southwestern corner of the state. The site is home to almost half the acreage of the world’s only 60 acres of Chert Glades, a wetlands habitat found only in southwest Missouri. In partnership with the City of Joplin and the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Audubon Center teaches respect for nature, and lives what they teach through ongoing conservation efforts.
Over 4 miles of trails wind through the acreage of the Wildcat Glades and offer visitors everything from a leisurely stroll to a robust rugged hike. The St. John’s Creek Trail takes guests past the historic site of the Redings Mill Bridge, where the foundation of the old mill can still be seen. Birds frequently seen along this trail include osprey and the belted kingfisher. The Bluff Trail overlooks Shoal Creek with a 50-foot climb up a chert bluff, which opens into Mother Nature's Gap, a large 40-foot deep fissure in the chert rock. The Rotary Centennial Trail is an easy hike to a viewing platform that overlooks a pond and the chert glades. The Audubon Center trails also intersect with the City of Joplin trails, paved stretches of trail that are suitable for pets and cycling as well as hikers.
The variety of habitat at the Wildcat Park lends itself to spectacular bird watching. Next to the nation’s last remaining chert glades are chert cliffs and savannah, bottomland forest, and the upland forest typical of the Ozarks, with oak and hickory trees. Wildlife seen at the park includes 163 species of birds. 48 of the seen species have been confirmed to nest in the area. Species unique to the Wildcat Glades include the Neosho Mucket Mussel, the 2-inch long eastern narrowmouth toad and the cave salamander, known for a tail longer than its body.
Indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Audubon Center are suitable for all ages and educate guests on the chert glades ecosystem, the Missouri Ozarks, and the wildlife found in the Wildcat Glades. Small children and others can easily use the Wentzscopes, which allow guests to view microscopic life in the water and see magnified samples of plant and animal life. A 1,300 gallon aquarium and terrarium system displays fish, turtles and snakes native to the area.
Outdoor exhibits include interpretative signage throughout the chert glades, the trails and an on-site cave. A new American Kestrel aviary is home to several Kestrels, rescued by the Audubon Center and unable to return to the wild. Wildlife viewing easily occurs from the Audubon Center’s deck. Bird feeders and native plants attract several different species throughout the year, including Missouri’s state bird, the eastern bluebird.
History: The Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center operates in partnership with the City of Joplin and is home to the offices of the Missouri Department of Conservation. The LEED Certified Audubon Center opened in 2007. The site is one of 41 Audubon Centers nationwide, each of them under the arm of the National Audubon Society, a non-profit environmental organization founded in 1905 and named after John James Audubon who famously catalogued and illustrated America’s birds in his Birds of America book in the mid 1800’s. The Wildcat Glades Center is free to the public, and as a non-profit organization relies on membership and donations to support the Audubon Center and its programming.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Educational programs at the Audubon Center include school programs for groups and homeschooled children of all ages. Programming varies by age group and ranges from animal classification, to animal lifecycles, to the study of ecosystems and green technologies. On-site programs for school groups range from 2-hour tours to full day studies with lunch included. Pre-school programs take place the second Saturday of each month and incorporate nature education with story time and puppet shows. Adult group programming is customized based on the needs and special interests of each group. The Center frequently hosts workshops and classes related to gardening with native plants.
Annual events include the Shoal Creek Water Festival. The family friendly August event is free, and includes a cardboard boat contest, shoebox boat race, children’s fishing contest, and dunk tank alongside educational booths and nature programs.
Past and Future Exhibits: The Audubon Center is home to two gallery spaces that showcase the work of local artists. Products of the Center’s programming are also displayed, such as youth artwork from the Center’s Nature's Artwork Summer Day Camp.
201 Riviera Dr, Joplin, MO 64804, Phone: 417-782-6287
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