Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.

As an educational, nonprofit institution, the Carpenter Nature Center provides both in-house and outreach environmental education programs. Reaching over 10,000 students per year, the CNC delivers classroom programs to groups of 35 or less, assembly presentations to groups larger than 35, and booth programs for fairs and other informal situations.

"We have activities for all ages and all times of the year," said Jen Vieth, executive director. "We get school groups, families, people with babies, and grandparents. We have free admission because our goal is to get people out in nature."

At the CNC, visitors can see varieties of frogs and turtles, as well as large birds such as a peregrine falcon, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl. Outside, on the grounds of the former private estate of Thomas E. and Edna D. Carpenter, more than 10 miles of trails lead visitors through a variety of landscapes on the 425-acre Minnesota campus.

The Savannah Trail makes a loop through grasslands and trees on the bluffs above the St. Croix River. Beginning near the gazebo, the trail winds down to two wooden overlooks, one extending out over a steep ravine, and the second providing nice views of the St. Croix River valley. Mounted binoculars help visitors gain close-up views of the forest and valley. The trail loops past the apple orchard back to the visitor center. The Savannah Trail is paved and accessible to all.

Several other trails exist, making it possible to walk down to the river, follow a railroad bed trail, or visit the prairie restoration project. Some trails are steep with wood chip surfaces, so walkers should get information from the visitor's center before setting out on hikes.

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Open year-round, the CNC does not groom ski trails in the winter, but does have snowshoes for rent when the snow is deep enough.

The Carpenter Nature Center also has a 300-acre Wisconsin Nature Preserve near Hudson which is home to an abundance of wildlife and birds. Between the two locations, the CNC has 725 acres under its protection.

"The Carpenter Nature Center is one of those gems that when local residents have friends or family visit, they often bring them here," Vieth said.

Dedicated to helping students young and old, the mission of the CNC "is fostering a lifelong appreciation of the natural world through environmental education, habitat conservation and outdoor experiences."

If you go...

What: Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Where: 12805 St. Croix Trail South, Hastings, Minn.; 300 E. Cove Road, Hudson, Wis.

Phone number: 651-437-4359

Website:  www.carpenternaturecenter.org

When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily

How much: Free (donations accepted)

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