Spring is lurking here in Northeast Texas. A few brave species of trees have begun budding, small blades of green grass are pushing their way past the dried brown, grackles have begun their clucking and the turtles are digging their way out of the mud. What better time to get out and witness the transformation than with a family hike along the groomed trails of the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary just off State Highway 121 in McKinney?
Founded in 1967 by Bessie Heard, the Museum and Sanctuary’s mission emphasizes conservation, education and preservation. It is a place where families and community members can gather, learn and reconnect with Mother Nature in all her glorious splendor. Tucked into the Southeast corner of McKinney, just a few miles from the North Central Expressway, the Wildlife Sanctuary provides an unexpected island of calm in the hustle and bustle of the Metroplex. Here hawks soar above, prairie grasses swish below and the hundred year old live oaks, a few of which stood during the Civil War, are a living testimony to the history of the Lone Star State. The trails are carefully groomed and easily navigable- some even accommodate a jogging stroller. In addition, there are several mapped routes of varying lengths allowing users to experience the Sanctuary at a pace and distance suited to their needs. Bring your binoculars and camera as wildlife abounds along the trails.
Don’t forget to say hello to the Animals of the World in their outdoor homes (weather permitting), as well as visit the native Texas butterfly garden which is home to dozens of beautiful native Texas butterflies.
After a refreshing hike in the Wildlife Sanctuary, head inside and explore the extensive collection of sea life, fossils and rock crystal formations. Dig for dinosaur bones or learn about the venomous and non-venomous snake species that call Texas home. Many of the Museum’s animal friends make their winter homes indoors so even if the temperature dips, you’re sure to catch a glimpse of a leaping lemur or hear the chatter of a macaw. The Museum’s staff and volunteers are knowledgeable, friendly and patient and they love to answer questions.
Looking for activities for the little ones or a fun family getaway? Check out the Calendar of Events and discover all there is to see and do no matter what the season. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Observation Station; a fun and interactive way for kids to learn about the natural world while earning points redeemable for items found in the wild blue yonder. Coming in April is the Celebrate Nature Spring Festival a one day event featuring vendors, demonstrations and live music all in celebration of the coming of Spring.
General admission to the facility is $9.00 for adults and $6.00 for children. However, there is a current promotion where children under 12 are free with each paying adult between 2:30 and 4 Tuesdays through Fridays when McKinney ISD is in session. It’s a great way to get some fresh air after being in school all day and learn something too! Membership levels range from $40 annually for members of the Armed Forces to a Golden Eagle lifetime membership for $2,500. With all of these options, there is a price point sure to please everyone.
So grab your family and your hiking shoes and get back to nature at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. Your earth, and your health, will thank you.