Your Favorite Local Nature Spots

Hi everyone!

Over the last few years as I’ve spent more time in nature I’ve started to notice so many differences between all the different trails I walk in and have come to realize that each and every one of them is special in its own way (at least to me). And yet having said that after reading an iNat user bio emphasizing the beauty of southern Illinois nature, my knee-jerk reaction was incredulity! I realized that despite never even having been there I had unfairly imagined field after field of crops and never stopped to wonder what nature in Illinois might look like and just how wonderful it probably is.

So I wanted to ask you all: what are some of your favorite local nature spots? Is there anywhere that highlights what you love most about the typical nature that exists in your area? Or maybe somewhere that is (or seems) “uncharacteristic” of where you live that you find special? Some place you wish more people were aware of?

I’ll share one of mine. I live in coastal AL and one of my very favorite local trails is the Splinter Hill Bog which blew me away with its abundance of biodiversity. Here’s a Flickr link for general photos and an iNaturalist link to see observations. I had never been somewhere that suddenly felt so alive in comparison to the surrounding yards of grass-and-not-much-else and it was a really special experience to me. I hope to get to read what you all have experienced and learn what other parts of the world are like!

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My favourite spot anywhere is a 3.5km walking trail in NSW, Australia, ~370km north of Sydney. It’s sandwiched between a major road on the left and a beach on the right and the area is pretty small; it’s under 1 km² and at some points barely stretches 150m wide. It has this amazing mix of habitats, including coastal rainforest, eucalypt forest, banksia scrub, heathland and (sadly now dried up) paperbark swamp.

I have a project for all the species I’ve seen there. Currently at 464 ID’ed species. Because I live in Sydney I only get the chance to visit it every few months, so whenever I do get the chance I visit it almost every day. My main aim is to try and see 100 bird species along the trail; currently at 63 bird species, which I think is pretty cool for such a tiny area.

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There’s one tiny corner of wooded wetlands in the inland part of Boston that manages to host the most amazing biodiversity. It’s really nice to have a bit of space that is protected and provides habitat (and observation opportunities!) for the shier city fauna.

Despite its size it’s often muddy and it’s not easy to locate if you don’t know where the entrances are (I know–the first time I saw it on a map I walked around it entirely searching), which I think helps it remain a bit wilder. That said it’s actively managed by community efforts to remove invasives.

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I live in a small city (Fredericton, New Brunswick) divided by an estuary, with several smaller streams feeding into it. It all floods in the spring, and consequently, the flood plain areas are largely left to nature. Even the walking trails are quite far up from the water. It’s the spaces between the trails and the water that I love the most.

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I have a hard time picking a favorite area. I have visited hundreds of locations, though most of them are within an hour’s drive of North Bay, Ontario. Most of these spots are notable for at least one reason or two. Frequently, new spots are the most enjoyable, although the novelty can wear out after a few visits . Regardless, I choose Laurier Woods in North Bay because of the short amount of time to get there from my place, 5 minutes by car, 15 minutes by bicycle. It is a provincially significant wetland and I like it best the second week of May, particularly when I find a fallout of warblers. The Cranberry Trail in Callander, Ontario is another favourite. It may be the most biodiverse area in the region. It is great for birds, butterflies (Henry’s Elfin spotted here), dragonflies (I found Ebony Boghaunter there) and plants. The biodiversity of the area counteracts the fact it is a linear trail. Neither of these spots would be considered worldclass, just merely of local significance, but the fact they not that far away from where I live increases their appeal greatly.

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I grew up around some amazing wild areas, but never really realized it until I starting living on my own. Despite it’s small size, my favorite park is a small wetlands just outside of Washington, D.C. - Huntley Meadows State Park.

It is the gem of Northern Virginia where you can get close enough to shorebirds (thanks to the low boardwalk) to almost touch them. I learned a lot about bird and plant identification thanks to this park. They got woodcocks, beavers, stag beetles - it’s the best. The fact that is in its own little self contained bubble really helps make it available for people to experience.

Give me one or two good summer days and I’ll be the reigning champ for this place - Huntley Meadows Park Project.

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rare Charitable Research Reserve’s Springbank Farm. It has chairs, water, washrooms, shade, nice people that help you find things and lots of flowers so lots of butterflies. And, at the end of the summer, many people using the community gardens there give you veggies from those gardens. It is high on a hill with lovely breezes and hardly any biting insects. I wish I could live there.

Should you want to know the worst for me it is rare’s Thompson Tract - the Deer Fly capital of Canada - and every other biting insect with a very healthy tick population and ants that like trees and shrubs you brush easily and have very painful bites. . Sometimes you can’t see the butterflies for things flying around you trying to bite you. I still go there twice a week, though.

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My favourite spot was the fields near my city house, for last 5 years most of them were replaced by high-rise houses, so I better won’t describe what it was like before, same happened with little part of forest we had, it’s now only 3/5 of what it was and a big forest we had and visited adter we moved in this flat was also cut down for buildings. Other place is my datcha of course, and most of places nearby are still there hopefully, but I don’t visit it much in last years because I live in another city, though it’s a superb place because the village is known from 1500y. and was inhabited by Ingrians mostly. And nothing really compares with Karelian nature, all North-East of Russia is the best I can imagine.
Now I live near one of the national parks and there’s no need to imagine what it is like, you can visit our project.) That’s the only national park that is partially in the city borders. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/zhivaya-priroda-natsionalnogo-parka-losinyy-ostrov

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I’ve got a few.

Mills Canyon, NM. Really remote and great for a wide array of wildlife. Reasonably popular so it’s unlikely to be entirely deserted but the whole county only has 900 or so residents. Set up camp and enjoy being still and watching whatever wanders by or go beat the bush some.

Palo Duro Canyon, particularly the Givens, Spicer & Lowry trail (all one trail) and the Paseo Del Rio trail. The first is a fairly stout hike, the second is really easy, but I found a ton of herps on both over the years, they’re both great for birds and mammals. The GSL trail takes you through a wide variety of habitat types too. Bring a ton of water; I got heat exhaustion on that trail after blowing through a gallon + in the summer heat.

Since moving I’ve become partial to the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning area, particularly the Bittern Marsh trail. Sadly, it’s flood prone so I don’t get to go on it much. Hagerman NWR is also a favorite although I haven’t gone there as often, bit of a drive. I really like the Meadow Pond Trail; insanely easy six mile-ish hike that runs through woods and lakes and seasonal wetlands.

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I agree with you. There is even a difference in what I’m likely to see by my front door which faces north and is shady and my back patio which faces due South in Greenville, SC. Right outside the patio my husband made me a bog garden inspired by our visit to Garden of the Coastal Plain in Statesboro, GA. Elsewhere in the backyard there are oaks and azaleas guarded by spiny orb weavers Gasterancatha. Without even leaving the property there is Brushy Creek well- named where red-headed bush crickets Phyllopalpus puchellus pursue their careers.
I haven’t yet mentioned the flood plain, the elementary school butterfly garden, the urban arboretum, and Falls Park by Reedy River. And of course the never to be forgotten Akureyri Botanical Garden in Iceland because local is wherever I happen to be for the moment. Check out my iNat projects linked to my profile. Have a great day!

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Thanks for the post! I live in Dallas and every October I get flown out to the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area for work. I’m always looking for new nature spots to visit in that area. Looks like Splinter Hill Bog is just an hour or so away from where I usually stay. I always visit the Graham Creek Nature Preserve when I’m in AL.

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I love this thread. So many of these responses really speak to the things that are revealed by just paying attention to spaces that are readily overlooked.

For me, it’s a little area of just a couple acres in the corner formed where a railroad bed intersects with an interstate in the industrial part of the run-down city of Dunkirk, NY. The change in surface drainage created a mucky pond that fluctuates in water levels throughout the year, so that in late summer and early fall the exposed mudflats become a vast expanse of Cyperus sp and other odd plants. The native soil of the site is an unusual calcareous fine sand deposit and the number of rare native plant species, plus adventives that probably came in due to the railroad and highway, makes it super-diverse and interesting. Most of the flora is regionally unusual. There are open barrens with just low herbaceous plants as well as shrublands. So far the site has a couple S3s, an S2 threatened species, an S1 endangered species (an orchid, at that) and one diminutive grass that was ranked SH and had previously only been collected at the other end of the state. The habitat extends to a tiny detached private parcel that was cut off by the railroad and highway right-of-ways that I have a secret ambition to buy some day. It’s tiny, cheap, and commercially useless. I’m just not sure how I would broach the subject to the current owner!

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I live in the county just north of Chicago, smack between Chicago and Milwaukee. One of my favorite spots around here is the S. Unit of Illinois Beach State Park, which contains the only significant stretch (~3 miles) of undisturbed Lake Michigan shoreline left in Illinois. The sand prairie just behind the beach hosts an intriguing combination of western and northern species, including Illinois’ only colony of Hoary Elfin butterflies.

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This thread is a great idea, and I loved reading all the posts! I would first like to add a rather unusual nature spot in Nuremberg, Germany: It’s a recultivated stream with water basins wedged in between the airport on one side and greenhouses and fields of rather industrialised farms on the other. Add to this lots of people going for walks or cycling on both sides of the stream, dogs roaming freely and, in the summer, a music festival hosted right next to this area and going on for several weeks. And yet, I’ve observed rare shorebirds, meadow breeders and beetles there. The contrast between the rather rich biodiversity and the unnatural surroundings fascinates me.

The other one is more obvious as a great spot: Osoyoos Desert Centre in the Okanagan Valley in BC, CA (http://www.desert.org/). The boardwalk crossing this intriguing (and unfortunatley, endangerd) ecosystem is about 1.5 kilometres long. We spent hours there because there was so much to observe and to take in. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return to this wonderful place. (Also, the whole Okanagan Valley is a great place.)

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I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and I still try to go to Catalina State Park every time I go back to visit. There is a great trail that goes up to Romero Pools. That is a great day hike that climbs enough to really see the difference elevation can make on the wildlife.

It’s even more drastic of a difference if you keep going all the way up to Mt. Lemon with somewhere around a 7,000 ft difference from the entrance of the park you go from a desert to a dense pine forest. That is an overnight trip I haven’t taken in decades, but still remember fondly.

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I live in NYC, in Manhattan on the Upper East Side. My favorite is Randall’s Island which is quite near where I live. It’s 2.09 square kilometers (520 acres). It has a lot of NIMBY (not in my backyard) stuff on it, and has been home to things like that for well over 100 years. These days it has the massive Triborough Bridge and the huge Manhattan Psychiatric Center, also a vast wastewater treatment plant, and so on. But it also has more than 60 playing fields for city children, the cutest little demonstration farm you have ever seen, and some truly fabulous garden areas. However it is the Randall’s Island natural areas that blow me away, including two salt marshes, two little intertidal beaches, a freshwater wetlands area, and some urban forest.

I have observed over 1,000 species from the island.

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/biodiversity-of-randall-s-island

If anyone reading this visits or lives in or near NYC, I would be glad to show you around some of the most interesting parts of Randall’s Island. Even in winter it is good.

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Tallahassee, FL currently. There is a drainage pond about two miles from my apartment called Lake Elberta. Normally it’s a reservoir for waste and runoff, yet it still manages to attract so many different species of birds, to the point where it’s the fourth greatest area in Tallahassee in terms of biodiversity. Herons, egrets, storks, purple martins, all manners of ducks, is just a mere sampling of what can be seen there. I can also travel to the Apalachicola National Forest, where I’ve seen fox squirrels, all kinds of grasshoppers and butterflies, rattlesnakes, and ephemeral wetlands with rare salamanders and frogs.

If I’m feeling adventurous I go to St. Mark’s Wildlife Reserve, where monarchs are there almost year-round, where there’s even more birds than Lake Elberta, along with deer, gators, boars, and great fishing, consisting of seatrout, redfish, and flounder. There’s also Alligator Point, my premiere fishing spot, where I’ve caught spinner, scalloped hammerhead, finetooth, and sandbar sharks.

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I’ve only been to that part of Florida once so far but what an incredible place it is! I’m going to be visiting St. Marks at the end of the month and I can’t wait. Hopefully I’ll get to make a stop in Apalachicola National Forest on the way back for a day hike, too. I visited the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines trail last month and that was a real treat. So many interesting plants. And hills!

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While at home, there’s a woods complex straddling a highway across the street from where I live. It surprisingly has an old growth forest with some more uncommon species (for western Long Island) like Trout Lilies and Beechdrops.

While I’m up in Syracuse, it’s gotta be either Oakwood Cemetery (a green space filled with old growth trees that the planners purposely kept up when they cleared the land for the cemetery) or Skytop Quarry and Clark Reservation SP (which I can easily do a day trip to; there’s some extremely rare plants and some cool fossil spots in there)

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As a resident of southern NM, I can’t answer this without mentioning the Organs. I’m pretty sure about 75-80% of all the species in the county can be found there, including some really cool endemics and miles of underexplored terrain, teeming with species we have no clue are even found in the state.
On top of that, I actually really enjoy this little park in Las Cruces called Tellbrook Park. It has a natural little walking area which has been the residence of some incredible birds as well as a large arroyo bordering the park. The arroyo teems with mammals, insects (so many!!!), birds, and even a few herps. The best part is that it is only a 5-10 minute drive from the university.

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