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Celebrate the Great Outdoors in January

Learning Centers Offer Hikes, Classes and More

People of all ages interested in viewing Ozark wildlife, learning outdoor skills, and hiking through scenic landscapes have ample opportunities to enjoy themselves even in the heart of winter. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center, and the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center both have offerings on the calendar.

At the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, located at 4601 Nature Center Way on the south side of Springfield near Hwy. 65, an Owl Prowl and evening stroll is scheduled from 6-9 pm. Friday, January 11th. The Conservation Dept. advises bringing a walking partner and a flashlight for this after dark exploration of the trails. Dickerson Park Zoo docents will offer two indoor programs at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Conservation officers will patrol the trails. No registration is required for this free event.

On Saturday, from 8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m., hikers are invited to a five-mile hike at the scenic Ha Ha Tonka State Park. In addition to the ruins of the castle, an elaborate construction that was the vision of businessman Robert M. Snyder, who was tragically killed in 1906 (Missouri’s first automobile fatality), the former estate contains bluffs, caves, springs and a natural rock bridge. Hikers who pre-register can meet at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and ride in the MDC van up to Ha Ha Tonka in Camden, County, or meet the Springfield contingent at Ha Ha Tonka State Park instead. Volunteer Naturalist Carmen Steketee will lead the hike which begins at the Nature Center. Hikers should be prepared for a moderate to difficult hike, and should bring a sack lunch and a water bottle, and, of course, comfortable hiking shoes. Register online at or call 417-888-4237. Space is limited.

For the little ones, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center is hosting programs for children ages 3-6. On Wednesday, January 16th, youngsters can learn about chickadees and make a craft to take home. On Friday, January 25th, the little ones can learn about skunks while making another craft.  Both of these are offered from 10-10:45 a.m. or 11:15-Noon. Call 417-888-4237 for information. 

The annual return of bald eagles to Lake Springfield is the focus of Eagle Days, on Saturday, Jan. 19th  from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 20th from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Eagle Days includes the indoor presence of Phoenix, a live bald eagle from Dickerson Park Zoo and more programs at the Nature Center every hour on the hour. Visitors are encouraged to stop by anytime and should plan to spend about two hours. Volunteers and spotting scopes will be available at the Boathouse and Marina during event hours to view visiting eagles.

For youth ages 12-17, Conservation TEENS: Waterfowl ID will help participants learn to identify migrating waterfowl. This program is Saturday, January 26 from 9 a.m. – noon. Both a classroom and a field component make this program a valuable experience. Binoculars, snacks and transportation will be provided. The program is free but requires registration by calling 417-888-4237 or register online at

On Saturday, January 19th from 8:30-11:30 a.m., the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center on Greene County Farm Road 61 just south of U.S. 160, invites folks to Woodworking for Wildlife to build a bluebird nesting box. Participants in the free class will learn how to make all the cuts out of a single board and to assemble their box so they can take it home. Registration is required online at or by calling 417-742-4361. 

Then, on January 26 from 8:30-11:30 a.m., Dalton Range is offering a Reloading workshop. The class covers the basic equipment, materials, and techniques needed to reload ammunition and customize loads to your firearms. Staff will demonstrate reloading and give participants hands-on experience. Registration is required at

Future 2019 events will delve into firearms, archery, and turkey hunting. Get more information about Dalton Range events by calling 417-742-4361.