The Ballard Nature Center, just east of Altamont, IL is a privately funded, non-profit, 210 acre nature conservatory whose mission is to provide high quality environmental education to the public. The center has six miles of trails including wetland, woodland, prairie and savanna environments. There’s a spacious visitor center at near the parking lot with wonderful displays inside describing local flora and fauna and their habitats. There’s also a children’s center with puzzles, games and activities for the youngest of adventurers. There’s a large lower story where classes are held and the area can also be rented for various functions. Schools can arrange for field trips to the center and each summer nature day camps are held for children, as well as families.
Where the center really shines is in it’s trails. With the various types of trails available, whether it’s a stroll through the woods, or a walk through the prairie as it was when the first settlers crossed Illinois, a person could come back time and time again and experience something completely different. There are benches in strategic resting spots along the trails and the wetland/prairie loop trail is completely handicap accessible. There’s also a kids fishing pond available for children under 15.
The visitors center is open 8:00 – 4:00 Monday through Friday, Noon-4:00 on Saturday and 1:00-4:00 on Sunday and is staffed by educators during those hours. The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

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-Ed Baumgarten