The Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids is a one-of-a-kind place for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. This must-see nature center has trails, interactive exhibits, a bird sanctuary, an outdoor classroom, and more!
The nature center is at the confluence of Indian Creek and the Cedar River (and was once two farms). Today it’s a fun place to explore, learn about, and help protect nature.
A Brief History of Indian Creek Nature Center
In the 1970s, B.B. Stamats and Jean O’Donnell created a committee of community members to start a nature center around Cedar Rapids. The idea was based on a nature center in the Twin Cities.
The idea developed into a nonprofit organization in 1973, but it didn’t yet have a physical location. But they soon found a site at Penningroth farm and leased the barn and 120 acres of land. And the first public programming began in 1974.
The nature area continued to expand by hundreds of acres through land donations and purchases. Over the years, they added trails, programming, and even a 12,000-square-foot Net Zero Energy building.
Unfortunately, 2020 was a challenging year. Besides the pandemic, a Derecho struck the Cedar Rapids area and destroyed over half of the Nature Center’s tree canopy. Work is ongoing to repair and restore the damage.
Recently, the nature center added a new forest preschool, immersive outdoor educational programming, and new exhibits.
Things to do at Indian Creek Nature Center
Hike the trails
Miles of trails wind through the diverse landscapes at the nature center. Explore the wetlands, woodlands, tallgrass prairies, and oak savannas via the trails.
Find trailheads near the Amazing Space building and parking area. See the trail maps for details.
Try one of the self-guided tours on the nature center’s website for even more hiking fun. These guided adventures tap into your senses for a unique hiking experience. Maps and printable guides are available.
Sac and Fox Trail
This 7-mile multi-use limestone trail isn’t managed by the Indian Creek Nature Center, but it’s right next to it. So if you’re looking for a longer hike (or bike ride), check out this excellent route along the Cedar River and Indian Creek. See the trail map here.
Explore Amazing Space
The Indian Creek Nature Center uses sustainable building practices that prioritize conservation. And the Amazing Space building is the perfect example and an excellent place to visit.
Amazing Space is a 12,000-square-foot Zero Energy building and the hub of the visitor experience. Some highlights include the bird sanctuary, a replica exhibit of Indian Creek, live turtles, and a gift shop.
The newest feature is the Indian Creek exhibit, an incredible creek replica displayed under the floor. It includes hundreds of detailed plants and animals and other elements of the creek, like the sand, wood, and shells.
Get a sneak peek with a virtual tour on the center’s website.
Explore the grounds surrounding the building
The area around the building is full of great places to explore. For example, the outdoor classroom, Hazelnut Hideaway, is a fantastic natural play area. And it’s constantly changing, so kids will discover something new with each visit.
Visitors can also hike the trails, explore wetlands & prairie, and have a picnic on the patio.
Discover the power of solar
The solar panels at Amazing Space provide all the energy needs for the building. Visitors can see the mechanical room and use an outdoor exhibit to learn more about solar energy.
Visit the gift shop
A stop at the Creekside Shop is a must on any trip to the nature center. But it’s not like other gift shops! You can buy items like honey, maple syrup, and sometimes even produce & eggs.
Take part in programming and events
The nature center offers a ton of excellent children’s and adult programs! It also hosts several special events throughout the year.
From beekeeping and birdwatching to summer camps and school field trips, there’s always a fun program to take part in! And the special events are pretty great too! Check out the Maple Syrup Festival, attend a Farm to Table Dinner, or go to Nature’s Noel during the winter holidays. Check out programs and events at the nature center website.
Visit the bird room at Amazing Space, or take your binoculars to the trails to see various birds. The center also offers programming to help you identify Iowa’s birds in each season.
An excellent place to fish near the nature center is just up the road! Prairie Park Fishery is a 65-acre stocked lake surrounded by paved trails for easy access. Catch Walleye, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, different types of bass, and more. It’s also stocked with trout in the cooler months.
Boat access for kayaks, canoes, and boats with electric trolling motors is available. See the Cedar Rapids website for more details.
The nature center offers outdoor fun throughout the year—and winter is no exception. The trails can be used for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
When there are at least five inches of snow on the ground, head out to Indian Creek and explore nature on snowshoes! Children and adult-size snowshoes are available for rent.
Things to do nearby
Prairie Park Fishery is four miles west of the nature center. It’s an excellent spot to go fishing, paddling, birdwatching, hiking, or biking!
Bertram Disc Golf Course is only 5 minutes away! It’s a 9-hole course with concrete tees with wooded and open holes. See the course map here.
Palisades Kepler State Park is just 8 miles southeast of Indian Creek. This beautiful 840-acre park is on the Cedar River, with scenic views, excellent trails, wildlife, and more!
Coralville Lake is 15+ miles south of Indian Creek. This 23-mile-long reservoir is a popular boating destination. Plus, there are three beaches, mountain bike trails, disc golf, trails, camping, and (much) more!
Lake Macbride State Park is only 20 minutes from the nature center. It’s a 2180-acre park featuring a 940-acre lake! Activities include swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, and camping.
Pinicon Ridge Park is a scenic 966-acre park 20 miles to the north. See the observation tower, wildlife area, and cool 520-foot pedestrian bridge! You can also find camping and cabins, trails, and boat rentals.
Kent Park is a beautiful 1,052-acre county park 30 miles south of the nature center. It has tons of native prairie, a 27-acre lake, three ponds, 9+ miles of trails, a beach, and a nice campground!
Visit Indian Creek Nature Center Today!
Indian Creek Nature Center is at 5300 Otis Rd SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.