Our Story

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Volunteer with Owl Display, 1984. Photo © Friends of Lakeside Nature Center

Concession Building, Swope Park. Photo © John Whiteman

Staff Member Leading an Education Program, 1984. Photo © Friends of Lakeside Nature Center

In 1966, Lakeside Nature Center opened in the old Swope Park concession stand across from Lake of the Woods. At the time, it was the only facility in Missouri where the visitors could stand within inches of live native mammals, reptiles, and birds of prey.

Environmental education was in its infancy and a group of biologists, educators, and enthusiasts offered environmental science classes, resident camps, and habitat exploration at the Nature Center.

Friends of Lakeside Nature Center (FOLNC) was founded in 1983 as a support organization for the Nature Center and continues to provide volunteers and funding.

In 1999, Lakeside Nature Center moved to its current location, an award-winning facility designed by International Architects Atelier featuring a flat seam roof and interior metalwork provided by Zahner. The building has a unique concept and layout, often described as if it were birds in flight.

Lakeside Nature Center and Pavilion. Photo © A. Zahner Company

Huge windows allow you to feel as though you’re on a walk through the woods as you explore the exciting displays. Large aquariums with fish and turtles, a bald eagle exhibit, a weathering area with owls and hawks, and numerous mammal, reptile, amphibian, and fish displays invite visitors to take their time learning about our native Missouri wildlife.

Lakeside Nature Center Display Hall and Viewing Gallery. Photo © Aaron Bono
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