Rusk Ranch Nature Center – family fun in the I.V.

If you are looking for a place to entertain and enrich your little ones this summer, the Rusk Ranch Nature Center should be on your activity list. In light of the fact that scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch to its “red list” of threatened organisms, it is the perfect time to go see the monarch butterfly available at the center.
But you should know, it’s not really just for children; there is something for everyone at the center. Not only is there a native butterfly pavilion and a hands-on nature discovery playground, there is a hummingbird garden, carnivorous plant exhibit, and the new “Shady Glen-Froggy Den” – all handicap accessible.
Children can play and learn during the nature discovery activities, such as observing the life of native caterpillars and butterflies, frogs and toads, following the animal tracks to find hidden animals, and discovering music in nature.
There is also a hands-on water cycle station that has a “Make it Rain” cloud and “Fill the Rivers” features. And in the Visitor Center the discovery can continue with the Living Soil Ecosystem and Living Forest Ecosystem exhibits.
Nature lovers will enjoy looking at the many species of plants and flowers that support pollinators of all kinds in the butterfly pavilion and hummingbird garden. And if you like what you see and smell, there are plants for sale, so you can build your own wildlife habitat.
Near the pavilion, you will also find two fluffy bunnies, wee quail and western pond turtles to observe.
Look for a FREE community day once a year with no entry fee that day. Children programs include “Earth Works!” – Permaculture for Kids with gardening fun and eco-centered play; “Nature Explorers” Day Camp – outdoor Skills and nature discovery; and “Girls Build!” a hands-on skills and enrichment program that happens in the fall for elementary school students.
The hard-working Illinois Valley volunteer community stepped up to help make all these programs happen, and still provides much of the labor to make the nature center possible! Currently volunteers serve in areas such as being docents at the Butterfly Pavilion, Caterpillar Crew – feeding caterpillars, exhibit development, birds and animal feeding and gardening. (You can call the center to volunteer at 541-287-2164.)
When the Illinois Valley News visited the center, the volunteer (docent) Diane provided a “Butterfly Guardian Guide” that included nature protection rules and a list of butterflies that might be seen in the pavilion, which included the painted lady, cabbage white, monarch, anise swallowtail, red admiral and buckeye.
Additionally, the nature center has a vision and a master plan for the O.N.E. Discovery Center (Oregon Nature and Environmental Discovery Center) that serves the dual purposes of inspiring visitors with wonderful nature experiences, and bringing revenue and economic support to the Valley.
The nature center is on 56 acres donated by the Rusk family, and sandwiched between Highway 199 and the Illinois River. It is located 1 mile south of Cave Junction off Highway 199. The center is open May to October, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an admission fee of $8 for adults, $5 for ages 5 to 17 and free for children 4 and under.
For more information, call 541-287-2164 or visit www.RuskRanchNatureCenter.org.