Rec & Sports » Play

Boise Bucket List: MK Nature Center

Exploring the urban jungle


I have a confession to make: Despite growing up in the Boise area and spending quite a few years here as an adult, I had never visited the MK Nature Center. (Insert audible gasp.)

Yes, I know that's akin to saying that you've never floated the Boise River on a hot summer day (I have) or never hiked Table Rock (I've done that, too), but somehow I had managed to never actually visit the small nature center in the middle of the city.

Sure, I had written about it numerous times, noting the series of really cool events and programs Idaho Fish and Game Department staff puts on at the 4.6-acre hideaway, but I had never actually stepped foot on its paved pathways.

That was until recently, when a few out-of-town friends hit Boise for the weekend. One of said friends happened to have a rather bummed-up knee, so that long hike I had planned to show off the area was a no-go. I still wanted to, No. 1: get outside on a beautiful weekend, and No. 2: show off my hometown, so I was left wracking my brain--until I remembered the Nature Center.

I had ridden past on the Greenbelt side of the facility just a few weeks earlier, so it was fresh in my mind. This time--knee brace-wearing friend in tow--we arrived via the parking lot next to the Fish and Game Headquarters on Walnut Street.

After pushing through downtown traffic, the Nature Center was like an oasis of calm, where blood pressure drops with every step. Small pathways weave through mini-representations of the area's natural habitats and even a backyard garden. Visitors can stroll through native plants or hit the visitor center, where staff host educational programs and displays.

But for most, the highlight of the center is the streamside walk, where native fish and birds are on full display. For the uninitiated, it's a bit startling to look over the rail of the pedestrian bridge and see a 7-foot-long white sturgeon gliding through the water below. OK, it's more than a bit startling. Combine the sturgeon with the massive trout that also call the stream home, and the signs reminding people that fishing is prohibited are understandable.

The trail provides several viewing areas, but no one--not even the wildlife--seems to be in much of a hurry. The pace of life slows, voices hush and everyone seems to breathe a little deeper.

Now that I can check the Nature Center off my Boise Bucket List, I can feel more like a local.