Calkins Nature Area

Coneflowers in full bloom in the prairie east of the nature center.Calkins Nature Area is a truly unique asset to Hardin County. Located between Iowa Falls and Alden, Calkins Nature Area boasts a first rate nature center of over 6,000 square feet which greets you as you enter 76 acres of rolling hills, nestled up to the banks of the Iowa River.

Covering those rolling hills are representations of the major ecosystems that are native to this area of the state:

  • tallgrass prairie
  • oak savanna
  • upland forest
  • bottomland forest
  • wetland and
  • riparian

With a keen eye, many of Iowa’s native wildlife species can be spotted year round while exploring the extensive network of nature trails at Calkins. There are miles of trail system on the grounds of Calkins Nature Area for exploration and discovery. Visitors can get an up-close view of Monarch metamorphism in the Shirley Welden Butterfly House and test their bird identification skills at the bird blind.

Calkins Nature Center contains a Native American and Natural History Museum that tells the story of the county’s ecological and cultural history. The museum is home to one of central Iowa’s largest collections of Native American artifacts dating back to the earliest inhabitants of North America. There is also a classroom, resource library and great room that is available for meetings and public programs.

Calkins also features an outdoor amphitheater with a stage that seats over 120 people, is constructed primarily from plastic recycled lumber, and is surrounded by native prairie plants. The nature center and amphitheater are available for rentals.

In addition to the nature center and amphitheater, these attractions are also found at Calkins Nature Area:

  • Live wildlife exhibit featuring over 20 species of native wildlife
  • 3 miles of hiking trails to explore native ecosystems
  • Butterfly house with native wildflowers and butterfly species
  • Wild bird observatory
  • 2,000 square foot educational rain garden
  • Native American agriculture and foraging garden
  • Full-sized Plains Native American tipi
  • Gazebo and picnic area
  • Nature exploration backpacks
  • Cross-country ski trail and ski rental

Hours Open
Calkins Nature Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Weekend hours are by appointment or reservation. The grounds, including the trails and animal exhibits, are open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is FREE to the public. You may contact the Calkins Nature Area staff at 641-648-9878 or by email.

PLEASE NOTE: Facilities at the nature center will be open through the winter, Monday through Saturday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The only building that will remain closed is the new museum due to its current renovations.
Wetland area in Calkins Nature Area.Ducks, song birds, frogs, salamanders, and turtles are just a few things that can be spotted at the wetland or along the Iowa River.