If you find yourself Menasha, make sure and visit the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
(1305 Plank Road). A fabulous Sunday drive kind of destination, Heckrodt is just one example of why the greater Fox Valley/Appleton region has a lot going on, especially for families that love spending time in the great outdoors.
A "76-acre urban nature reserve with habitats including forested wetland, cattail marsh, open water, created prairie, open field, and upland forest," visitors to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve can enjoy the three miles of trail and the 4,000 square foot nature center all year round. A popular destination for bird watchers, photographers, and school groups, if the nature center is closed, the trails are still open.
And because two of the three miles of hiking trails are along elevated boardwalks, visitors will be able to get into nature, irregardless of mud and snow underfoot. And, on the subject of the forest floor, keep your kids in grubby clothes so they can fully explore the interactive oudrood play area "The World Beneath Your Feet." With tunnels and bridges, a rocks, logs, and a giant metal turtle to climb on, look for a 2014 expansion of this outdoor playground to include opportunities for building, digging, and wading.
A personal highlight of the trip was discovering the man-made replica bald eagle's nest at 4 feet by 6 feet. You can climb up, over, and inside to get a new appreciation for the winged predator. Second on the "favorites" list was the meadow of almost yellow aspen trees. And when the leaves drop and the snow falls, you can rent snowshoes inside the nature center building for $2/pair. BYO equipment (including cross country skis) are also welcome.
Heckrodt also offers special events events throughout the year; with the Creepy Crawlies Halloween Event happening this upcoming weekend (Oct. 4 and Oct 5). Worth checking out is the Heckrodt website and Facebook page. If you visit during nature center hours, make sure and take in the animals, exhibits, and hands-on activities for kids of all ages. Admission is free. No dogs allowed.