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Getting “Wild” Before Heading Out

Learn about the outdoors while indoors at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. Image courtesy of the Wild Center.

Slippery and clownish otters slide down a rock slide into the water.

Easily-found brook trout swim nearby along the Living River Trail.

Stop to touch a cloud that forms and fades before your very eyes.

Sometimes the wild is found indoors. Such is the case at the non-profit Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, better branded as the Wild Center.

The $30 million, 54,000-square-foot Tupper Lake, New York museum along the Raquette River in the heart of the Adirondacks is an exhilarating interactive experience, offering a satisfying blend of indoor and outdoor exhibits in an airy modern facility constructed in the spirit of the area’s vintage camps of years gone by.

Open since 2006, the center is a popular spot, reaching 500,000 visitors in August 2012.

Wonder lurks around every corner starting in the Great Hall, adorned with a number of birch trees. Follow the Living River Trail, an exhibit of area wildlife, as it meanders along areas mimicking the outdoors—mountains, marsh, forest, waterways. Watch the entertaining otters on fake rocks plunging down a man-made waterfall as staff stand by with an educational narration. Peer into the aquariums with trout, pike, and other fish. Watch snapping turtles bake under the lights, but heed the sign stating that they’re named snapping turtles for a reason.

Wildlife abounds indoors as well. Image by Marty Basch.

Wildlife abounds indoors as well. Image by Marty Basch.

If you must touch something by the turtles and their marsh, try the enchanting keyboard with its animal and insect sounds. Talk about creating a natural symphony with loons and frogs.

Also, be on the lookout for actual live birds and animals. Staff bring about the house raven, owls, porcupines, and even skunks for live demonstrations.

For an otherworldly experience step into Planet Adirondack, a darkened room with a suspended computerized orb of the Earth acting as a screen to view a melange of data like information about snowfall, hurricanes, flight paths, and even Facebook usage across the globe. It’s amazing how dark some countries are.

All is not inside though. There are two miles of walking trails outside the center covering its 31 acres, an area favored by waterfowl and other birds. Get a good look at the Raquette River, one of New York’s longest, by walking to the scenic overlook. Traverse the bridges on the Pond Loop, home to an osprey tower. Walk by Greenleaf Pond or to a bird blind. There are also natural outdoor elements in The Pines, like a playground for children.

When winter rolls around, use snowshoes, or go on a tour to identify animal tracks.

Paddlers can also get a closer look at the river by canoe on a seasonal guided trip led by a licensed guide and center naturalist. The tour explores the winding marshy oxbow area outside the center, a small but scenic piece of the 146-mile-long river that flows through the very region showcased at the Wild Center.

The Wild Center is found at 45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake, N.Y. Opening hours and days fluctuate with the season. There is also a cafe, theater, children’s, programs and gift shop. The website is www.wildcenter.org.

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  • Bernard St.Onge

    Great place to spend time learning about the Adirondacks