Nature at The Confluence (NATC) is a destination, nature-based, public open space dedicated to making City Center’s historic confluence of the Rock River and Turtle Creek a place of gathering, exploration, recreation, learning, and inspiration. The center offers several nature-themed, fun-filled activities for people of all ages and abilities.
Things to Do
NATC is more than just a nature retreat; it offers outdoor learning gardens. You’ll enjoy looking through the Pollinator Garden, Sensory Garden, Stone Soup Garden, and Tasting Garden. You will not only learn more about pollinators and healthy herbs, but feel, smell, and taste the herbs too! It offers an ideal place for children to take a break from city life and enjoy the beauty of nature. The Lorax Children’s Garden is themed after The Lorax – a children’s book about dangers to the environment, written by Dr. Seuss. Children can read copies of the book inside the Learning Center or while walking through the prairie – laminated pages of the book are placed on sign posts throughout the path. They also offer fun activities like a Nature Seeker Scavenger Hunt for people of all ages.
The prairie restoration area is home to native plants such as Black-eyed Susan, Yellow Coneflower, and Mountain Mint. You’re welcome to stroll through the area, walk the gravel-packed trails, and paddle your way through the confluence of the Turtle Creek and the Rock River. You can even spot swans, white pelicans, beaver, various species of ducks, other waterfowl, or the occasional deer, fox and coyote along the banks. An island area provides a safe home for a pair of nesting eagles.
NATC holds various themed programs depending on the season, one being Monarch Magic. The facility has been raising monarchs and releasing them into a healthy nearby environment. You can come in and see the eggs, the caterpillars, and the beautiful monarch butterflies and learn how to raise them. The center hosts several similar family-friendly programs that are free or request a small donation. The Wednesday Walkabout is a fun event where you can walk the trails with friends and family (dogs are allowed too, but put your furry friend on a leash). The Learning Center also provides free coffee and animal-themed crackers afterwards! The Community Fire and Drum Circle is held on the third Thursday of each month – sit around a bonfire, roast ‘smores and try a variety of percussion instruments.
This urban environment center sits amid 10 acres of restored prairie area. Located halfway along the newly designated national Rock River Trail, the land has been used and explored by humans for more than 13,000 years. Ancient hunters, native American mound-builders, French fur traders, and today’s river explorers have all traversed the waters and lands of this area. This history of the space along the banks of the Turtle Creek and Rock River make the Confluence an appropriate site to tell a very important story about urban ecology.
The land itself was not originally a prairie but a natural marshy wetland. Over the past seventy years the wetland was transformed into a dumpsite – industrial fill was brought in to raise the land ten feet. When one enters the campus and sees the beautiful prairie plants, the idea that this was a dumpsite just over a year ago is rather unbelievable. This $2.2 million project spearheaded by Beloit 2020, overseen by Therese Oldenburg, and pushed into reality thanks to selfless volunteers and donors tells a story of coming together as a community to give back to nature.
NATC owns seventy more acres of property in the surrounding area that they are restoring and building up in phases. The project aims to ultimately become one of the largest urban ecology centers in the Midwest. Projects to restore Kelly Creek are also underway – this creek was once a clean spring that flowed into the Rock River. After the 1940s, it was buried under roads and filled with waste, and today it emerges from a culvert pipe and into the prairie area. NATC is working to clean up the creek and build a woodland trail to provide access to it.
Put on your walking shoes and drop by at the confluence for a recreational and educational retreat – the Learning Center is open Tuesday to Sunday, but the park, trail, and prairie area are accessible every day, from dawn to dusk!
Click here for a video tour of NATC!
Click here to see the Facebook page.