The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center: Boise’s Hidden Species Spot

Your feet make gentle, steady thumping sounds on the strip of pavement that is the Greenbelt. To your left is the Boise River and to your right, Municipal Park, filled with gigantic, gnarled trees. Two fat squirrels chatter, boldly robbing a temporarily abandoned picnic. People enjoy a day in a park not far from their Boise homes. Gradually, the park fades into a dense clump of bushes bordered by a wooden fence. You wonder at the mysterious copse, and then spot a narrow path into it. You follow the path into a cozy park, and it turns into a boardwalk over running water full of fish. A startled mule deer hops away through the trees and chirruping finches flit through the undergrowth. You take a closer look at the plants, and realize that almost none of them are the same.

You have just discovered the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center. Further exploration of this unusual place would reveal three different habitats; a miniature sagebrush plain, a pond rich in cattails and fish, and a logjam river section. You would also find under water viewing tanks of salmon, trout, and many other species of fish in their simulated Boise homes. If you ventured into the indoor portion of the center, you would find enthusiastic educators and interactive natural resources education.


It is hard to believe that just over twenty years ago this vibrant 4.5 acre piece of land was a baseball park, and Municipal Park was a campground for baseball enthusiasts. When the baseball team found a new field, the land was vacated and turned over to the state. The land was dug up, revealing years of human detritus, and converted into an Urban Wildlife Interpretation Area by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game with help from generous public and private donations. In 1990 it was presented as a gift to the state of Idaho from the Boise City Centennial Celebrations. Today it is a gift to members of Boise homes and communities, and passersby who want to see some of Idaho’s wildlife.


The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center is full of educational opportunity. Year-round inexpensive programs give people, mostly kids, hands on experiences with Idaho’s wildlife. The center’s main 
 rogram is Streamwalk. Students learn about aquatic species in the classroom and then venture out into the center’s man made stream off of the Boise River, armed with nets, viewing boxes, and thick rubber boots. Specialized programs offer them opportunities to dissect owl pellets, study native plants, and learn how to compost at their Boise homes.

As illustrated at the beginning of the article, the center is open to the public. People are free to come and go at their leisure and enjoy Idaho’s wildlife. Plaques along the path tell viewers the names, locations, and functions of each of the animals, plants, and fish they encounter in the park. If you are inclined to take a souvenir, the center’s gift shop offers a variety of products almost as diverse as the wildlife it supports.

If you enjoy being able to see wildlife up close in the center of a bustling metropolis, Boise homes are an excellent consideration. Boise’s numerous parks and education centers offer information and, perhaps more importantly, a beautiful haven to enjoy nature’s best.

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