Texas Nature Challenge: Trinity River Audubon Center

Today we completed the Texas Nature Challenge for the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas.

It's quite a drive from our neck of the burbs but well worth it for a fun day in the great outdoors. We came here last year for their Nature Challenge as well.

This is the back side of the nature center. Why do you think they have all of these little windows? We'll have to find out later.

My kids remembered the boardwalk over the water from when we were here last year. Bridges are always a cool thing for kids.

The Trinity River Audubon Center was once an illegal landfill covered with 1.5 million tons of trash. The City of Dallas spent three years cleaning the site and burying the trash in capped-landfills on the property which now just appear as nice hills on the property. Audubon is working to restore this land to the Blackland Prairie, Great Trinity Forest, and Trinity River wetland systems that it once was.

Our mission today is to help with this restoration process. We took the trail down to the Trinity River. Along the way, we were to look for and collect 20 pieces of trash then once at the river we were to observe the trash and little collecting on the opposite bank of the river from us. This spot at the end of the trail was perfect for viewing the river.

We didn't see much trash on the other banks of the river but there were a few pieces here and there.

We got to the TRAC around the time of the big NBA Dallas Mavericks Welcome Home celebration in Dallas this morning. The Mavs just won the NBA finals championship and there was a big parade and party downtown to welcome them home. We could have gone to the big party but I thought quiet time in the woods with the kids was better than loud, rowdy, and jam-packed people partying like crazy. But the loud party crowd didn't want to leave us out of the celebration. As we were looking at trash along the river, Nicholas noticed this blue Mavs basketball floating down the Trinity River!

We sat at the picnic tables and decided to explore the backpack that we had borrowed from the nature center. It was full of field guides and maps, a notepad and colored pencils, a magnifying bug box, and a compass.

The kids sat and drew a picture of the river and the trash he had seen.

Rachel saw this purple thing near her on the picnic table and asked, "What's that?". It was purple bird poop! Well, you've got to learn about it somehow.

Nicholas wore his new adventurer hat and was doing a great job of leading our hike.

We used the compass to learn which direction we needed to head to get back to the nature center.

Just outside the nature center, Nicholas found this little moth sitting on the boardwalk. It was kind of funny because last year we found a cicada sitting in that very spot!

Every third Thursday of the month, TRAC offers free admission to the property. Today was the third Thursday so inside the nature center, there were some special animal encounters and girl scout presentations that aren't usually here.

Nicholas comleted a pledge to do his best to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle his trash properly. He's always so good about this because we've taught him about the 3 R's from a very early age.

There were several girl scout presentations. They offered bookmarks recycled from cardboard packaging such as cereal boxes. At each presentation, the child could get a stamp on their bookmark and then get a prize at the end. They both got excited about filling up their bookmark with stamps.

At our first presentation, we learned about the habitat of the Trinity River and how to protect it.

The kids colored and cut-out their own red-ear slider turtle bookmarks.

Rachel has been doing well with cutting and she was very proud to be able to use the scissors to cut out her turtle.

Nicholas did a great job with coloring his turtle with realistic markings. He loves red-eared sliders!

Next we learned about butterflies and other bugs. Here the kids colored coffee filters and then attached them to clothespins to make their own butterfly magnets.

Rachel was very proud of hers and flew it all around the nature center.

Next we learned about mammals that live on the river and the kids learned how to identify different kinds of animal tracks. Then they completed some activities in a take home booklet they were given.

Rachel just wanted to color everything in her booklet pink.

The kids filled up their bookmarks with stamps and each won these pencils that are made from recycled blue jeans! Cool! They also got passes for free admission in the future.

We took some time to explore the nature center and look through all those neat little windows that we saw earlier from the outside.

I love this little sitting area for kids. How fun to sit in this little cubby hole and read a book about nature.

Rachel was obsessed with working this puzzle and spent a lot of time in the little cubby.

There are some great hands-on exhibits and things to look at throughout the nature center.

Rachel found some "touch me" drawers. Here she is learning about different kinds of animal fur.

There are several cool displays like this where you can look through a scope to see an animal then press a button to hear the sound it makes.

Rachel liked this little area with touchable items set up under magnifying glass.

She crawled into the little cubby area and made sure to study each and every item there.

There was a fun little area just outside the nature center where a lot of kids were playing so we had to check it out.

I bought the kids each a little souvenir in the gift shop. They are these little plastic bird whistles that I remember having when I was a kid. You put water in and blow into the whistle and it really sounds like a bird call. My kids weren't excited about them until I showed them how it works. Then they wouldn't stop blowing them. I'm afraid we may not have been good stewards of Reducing our water use today. They filled those whistles over and over again.

Take a listen for yourself.

The Trinity River Audubon Center is located at 6500 Great Trinity Forest Way*
Dallas, TX 75217. Dallas recently changed the name of the street. If Great Trinity Forest way does not show up on maps or GPS, please try 6500 Loop 12. For more information, please call them at 214-398-TRAC or check out the Trinity River Audubon Center website. You can also follow them on Facebook.

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