Boise Places Worth Seeing

MK Nature Center - Fish, Fur, Fowl, and Fun

The MK Nature Center is kind of hidden, but that's what's so great about it. It's discreetly tucked away in a woodsy 4.6 acre plot of land in between the Idaho Fish and Game Headquarters and the Boise River, which gives one the impression of being insulated from the surrounding city. Add the fact that it's a great place to take kids for a bit of outdoor education, and you've got a nice two-hour diversion from your ordinary life.

The signature feature of the MK Nature Center is the stream walk, which loops around a masterfully recreated alpine pond and stream system, complete with a beaver lodge, swimming waterfowl, and big rainbow trout that are easy to see on the elevated walkway that crosses the pond.

The stream walk's elevated walkway

In early September, they've even been known to trap migrating kokanee salmon from other rivers and put them in the stream system to spawn and then provide fabulous examples of what dead salmon look like. Hey, that's nature, kids, and the local bears are hungry.

Mammal food

Everyone will enjoy the series of underwater viewing stations, where glass windows give you a side view of what's going on below the stream's surface. There are plenty of nice interpretive signs that you probably won't read, but that's OK. In a nutshell, they just explain and illustrate the stream habitat required for native trout and salmon to live and reproduce. If they quiz you when you leave, just tell them that and you'll pass.

Kids love the aquarium aspect of the underwater viewing stations

If your kids are bored by the overarching theme of fish fornication, head inside the education building for a variety of hands-on activities, taxidermy mounts, and other exhibits. They've got all your favorite dead mammals, as well as live fish, reptiles, and amphibians for everyone's viewing pleasure. For all the bird lovers out there, there is a bird-viewing station inside the classroom at the back of the building, and there is also an enclosure just out the side door that contains a live kestral or two.

Watch out for the wolf; it might kill your livestock

If you have questions or want to buy some nature-related books, postcards, and other stuff, there's an information desk near the front door.

Beware of flying birds

If all this fun fails to impress your kids, tell them there's an alligator out in the pond and then push them in the water when they stoop to get a good look. The posted signs say there's no fishing, swimming, or picnicking, but you could tell everyone it was an accident and nobody could probably prove otherwise.

What: Nature walk and education
Where: MK Nature Center, 600 South Walnut, Boise

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When: Stream walk open all year, sunrise to sunset. Education building open Tues-Fri, 9am-5pm and Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
Cost: Free. Donations accepted.
Extra Bonus: The Nature Center is accessible from the Greenbelt, and it is also adjacent to Municipal Park. You can ride your bikes to the park, have a picnic, and then take a nature stroll.