Children’s Places

I recently saw this Topic and completely mis-read its intent. I thought it was about good nature places to take kids! Since it was not about that…

Do you know fun natural places to take children? Here are a few from my area. Realizing visitor centers may be closed due to covid, these parks still offer interesting natural scenes.

My criteria also includes:
-Bathrooms and parking areas
-Safe trails (using good sense)
-Something intriguing not found at playgrounds

  1. Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, CA
    Besides a lovely beach (do be careful of waves here) with many shore birds, there are 2 shallow tidal lagoons. In winter, a population of overwintering Monarch butterflies visits the area behind the beach. There is a winding boardwalk down to a little viewing platform. Also, some easy trails that go to a lagoon and through a semi-forested area.

  2. Henry Cowell State Park, Felton California
    Many old grown redwoods are fire-hollowed, making imaginary tree houses (one with a real room, many have partial hollows with doors and windows). Besides the old growth tree loop trail, there is a nice trail (Pipeline) to a nearby river beach. There are usually nice docents around to point out interesting features. The adorable gift shop is open. Bonus: Roaring Camp Railroad is walking distance. They are open for old-time steam train rides through the forest (reservations likely needed).

  3. Alum Rock County Park, San Jose, CA
    The YSI Nature Center and the Ranger Station may be closed now, but the bathrooms are open. There are pretty pathways along the creek and one or two hot springs inside tiny grottos. There’s lots of wildlife. The south-facing side of the creek is dry, with grasses and oaks. The northern side is much wetter and shady. Different plant and animal communities are found just a few hundred yards apart on either side of the creek (e.g., scrub jays on the dry side and Stellers jays on the cool side.

I have some others in mind, but mainly I think it would be lovely if you could contribute ideas for other areas.

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You’ll find a lot of my observations in a pond and stream in our neighborhood that my kids love to go wading in. You have to watch your feet a little (snapping turtles, copperheads may be present, brairs) but they love it and it’s reasonably safe under supervision.

No bathrooms, but it’s close enough to home that that isn’t a big deal.

Although, like 90% of my observations in the last 2-3 years are near swim beaches or areas with a playground near by so I can take the kids, we can traipse around, then they can play, then they get a snack, then we traipse some more.

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This thread should be related back to the eco-tourism thread I read earlier. I didn’t know a good way to make my point in that conversation–that prospective eco-tourists need to be re-educated as to what they can expect in a natural world suffering from over-use by humans. That wilderness won’t be much of a wilderness if 5000 people a year visit there.

Children taught/shown nature that can be anywhere, will look at the world with different values. Children taken to special places where dozens sometimes hundreds of other groups also visit will inevitably expect those possibilities to continue.

I’ve lived in a tourist hotspot in Australia for about 35 years and have worked in Landcare for 16 years. I’ve seen designated eco-tourism places taking the brunt of numbers regress to a lowest-common-denominator of the eco part of the equation, while the facilities have improved to the Bali-resort standard and taking more land in the process.

I’m not saying facilities aren’t necessary, far from it. Anyone that’s ever cleaned up after a doof in the forest–young people communing with nature while also living a modern lifestyle–will curse the lack of facilities. But what I’m saying is that it will be hard to continue to ‘have’ nature if people en masse continue to expect to be able to interact with wilderness and unspoiled nature and special places.

There are plenty of places often close to home where you can keep enjoying all those. Overgrown verges, abandoned cemeteries, small parks, riverside forests, Landcare plantations and creeks, all the places where nature may continue to hang out.

The big places will have to be gardened to support the wear and tear. No wilderness in that.

Or to put it another way, “There’s no room at the top”?

Well, I don’t have kids. But in my habitual stomping grounds in the Dominican Republic, I would take kids to Rogelio Beach, in Magante (it doesn’t have a website like the ones @teellbee linked).

  1. There are sometimes bathrooms available, but locals will charge for using them if it is a popular holiday. On the other hand, rural Dominicans on the whole do not seem overly concerned about relieving oneself outdoors. I recommend not coming on a popular holiday anyway. On an ordinary weekday, there can be almost nobody once you step away from the little restaurants.

  2. I like to walk west from the main beach, to explore the beach forest, and the trail back through the forest to the edge of a swamp. Or, east from the main beach, depending on whether the sand bar is open or closed, I can show them a mangrove forest (and demonstrate watching out for quicksand).

  3. Lots of coconut, sea almond, and seagrape, which I would show kids how to eat (or drink, as the case may be). The mangroves with their stilt roots. Also a bit of environmental education as they notice the extreme amounts of plastic trash everywhere. And they might encounter local kids there, doing their share of the family’s subsistence activities.

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Just having a decent yard with grass can be a wonderland for kids. I was lucky enough to grow up with a yard like that on the edge of a forest, with a small creek running through our yard. My memories of nature are full of catching grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, fireflies, and even crayfish(in the creek). I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until my 5 year old cousin who lives in a townhouse in a city came to visit and was absolutely delighted to be able to catch butterflies, so much so that she had me catch them for her for like 4 hours straight.
Some of my other favorite memories as a kid are of going to state parks in the area with lakes to catch and release crayfish, minnows, frogs and salamanders.

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Hopefully it makes a lot of sense that I don’t have kids, but I’m a “kid”, so I think I’d know a thing or two about cool nature places.

I’ve noticed people have already mentioned this, but streams and lakes are amazing places to explore, as well as woodland areas.

I love going to state parks around my area, as all you need is a park pass, which can last for an entire year of outdoor adventures! (most have little community centers of visitor centers with bathrooms :smiley:)

@bluebird81 already said, just a simple yard is a great place to look! I almost always have a field guide on me, so wherever I go, I can research something interesting, or look up an organism I find! (Oh, and bring snacks…and bug spray…)

Say more?

Really nice nature walk - your description made me feel like I was there.

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LOL! I just read yesterday that catnip is an excellent bug repellent.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210304145425.> htm :

“ Recent research shows catnip compounds to be at least as effective as synthetic insect repellents such as DEET.”

@bluebird81 @brownfam State parks are a blessing. We have state parks I’ve been visiting since I was a child, and I still never tire of going back.

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The reference to drink was for the coconuts. The local people use a machete, but I can open them for drinking using my pocket knife.

Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) is edible. The local people also drink them, though – as a homemade wine.

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I am not sure this is realistic. My family was not really a traveling family. Our nature places were semi-wild parks, beaches, vacant lots, that sort of thing. But I was a bookish kid, and always had a library card. That’s where my expectations of nature, and nature travel, came from – dozens and dozens of library books. I was naive enough to think that since the books were nonfiction, the places they depicted must really exist. And who in my life knew enough to tell me differently? They knew less about nature than I did. Should I have been shielded from this? “Don’t let the kid get into the books; he might get ideas.”

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‘Don’t let the kid get into books, they might get ideas?’ That was me to a T. As a teen I read 19th century explorer stuff. Hard to find any of those wild places by the time I started my jaunting around the world. I learned that my own country, town and surrounds, backyard had as much wilderness in them as African rain-forests, Amazonian jungles and the taiga to name but a few romanticized places.

The values thing? It’s happening. How many people have you heard who have a bucket list of places to see and things to experience? Could be that’s just an Australian thing.

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I have always been a big supporter of going into the backyard with your kids after it rains to look for salamanders and beetles.

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At some point I realized that I was not going to see endangered species in the meadow behind the middle school, or even at Scout camp. And that the reasons for this were related to the reasons species are endangered in the first place. In that sense, those close-to-home places have less wilderness in them.

Not to put too fine a point on it: industrial civilization would like very much for you to think that the scraps of nature they deign to leave you are just as good as the nature they destroy.

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I have been thinking about the original question. I don’t have kids, although decades ago I used to work at enviro-ed camps where there were groups of kids. Where would I take kids now? The original writer, @teellbee , appears to be in the South San Francisco Bay area. I will therefore contribute for the North Bay area.

Wetlands Edge Park in American Canyon – has levee trails with views of tidal marshes. Great for winter waterfowl especially, but worthwhile at any time of the year. It is also educational in another way: interpretive signs explain about the methane power plant drawing fuel from the hill that was once the city landfill, and about the restoration of the marshes that had once been drained.

Albany Bulb in Albany – artificial landform built of fill, but is now covered over with vegetation. You do need to be careful of rebar and rubble off the trails, but I do frequently see people there with kids. This is an example of the way a vibrant ecosystem can form from almost entirely nonnative vegetation – and provide a home for native birds and wildlife.

Albany Hill also in Albany – an isolated hill rising from flat land, it is a refuge for native plants surrounded by the city.

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Hey, i used to visit the Albany Bulb - way back in the day, it had some great eccentric art pieces people made. It was a nice refuge from the inland South Bay summer temps. My friend and I used to take her dogs there for a romp. I’ll have to put Albany Hill on my list for a visi.

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A lot of them, we have two topis on whih places people are going to explore.
Don’t underestimate taiga though, there’re lots of kilometeres of wilderness, not every spot was visited by a human and anyway tons of places you will hardly get to. And it’s huge.