The Nature Institute
The Nature Institute (TNI) is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, IL. Since its founding in 1980, The Nature Institute's board and staff have worked to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world through preservation, restoration, and education. Each summer TNI hosts a premier camp for children pre-K - 6th grade, and welcomes more that 8,000 area students on field trips throughout the year. TNI also owns and manages over 450 acres of protected land, such as the Olin Nature Preserve, the Mississippi Sanctuary, the Kemp and Cora Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary, and the Heartland Prairie Project at Gordon Moore Park. These natural areas provide unique places for the public to experience the diversity of the Riverbend area with its hardwood forests, prairies and wetlands. TNI preserves are open to the public and free to use from dawn to dusk. Office hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tax-deductible annual memberships are available for those with the need to help TNI continue forward with our mission. Membership amounts are as followed: Student- $15, Individual- $25, Family- $50, and Mississippi Sanctuary Society- $100+
*Groups can contact The Nature Institute for information on hosting informational sessions in the Talahi Lodge and guided walking tours of the natural areas.
Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary
Hutchinson Trail – Pink Loop ~ .4 miles This easy level trail is at the corner of Levis and S. Levis Lane (small parking area for this trail also here) at the Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary, and travels over flat ground for 0.4 miles. A casual stroll will take about 20 minutes and ambles through the prairie restoration. We encourage you to visit this trail throughout the warm months to watch prairie plants grow, bloom, and set seed. It is the perfect place to view pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.
Olin Nature Preserve (easiest to hardest)
Frog Trail – Green Loop ~ .5 miles The Frog trail is a beginner level trail with flat terrain. The 0.5 mile trail will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Highlights include a view of the Mississippi River from the Olin skeet range, savanna habitat, and multiple sinkholes. You may see turkeys, hear a frog call from the sinkhole ponds, or see an indigo bunting flitting through the trees.
Fox Trail – Orange Loop ~ 1 mile The Fox Trail is a beginner level trail with flat terrain. This 1.0 mile trail will take approximately 1 hour to complete. Highlights include a view of the Mississippi River from the Olin skeet range, savanna habitat, multiple sinkholes, as well as successional forest habitat. You can take a detour to see a formerly used roosting site of bald eagles. Look for animal tracks along the trail to see what creatures, like deer and raccoons, use Fox Trail.
Rock Trail – Red Loop ~ 1.5 miles The Rock Trail is an intermediate level trail with multiple inclines. This 1.5 mile trail may take up to 2 hours to complete. Highlights include a view of the Mississippi River from the Olin skeet range, savanna habitat, and multiple sinkholes before you meander down to the bottoms. There you will see the Underground Railroad Monument, find a small stream, and see exposed bedrock.
Beaver Trail – Purple Loop ~2.3 miles The Beaver Trail is an intermediate level trail and may take up to 2.5 hours to complete. The loop will take you directly to Beaver Falls, the largest waterfall on the property, and back to the parking lot.
Deer Trail – Black Loop ~ 3 miles The Deer Trail is a difficult level trail with rugged terrain and our longest loop. This 3 mile hike may take up to 3 hours to complete and requires multiple inclines. Highlights include a view of the Mississippi River from the Olin skeet range, savanna habitat, and multiple sinkholes before you meander down to the bottoms. The trail to Beaver Falls is connected to the Deer Loop. You will see varying ecosystems as you hike past hill prairie, savanna, successional forest, mature forest, and restored prairie. This is a difficult hike, requiring climbing over logs and repeated hiking up and down hills on narrow paths.
Prairie Trail- 60 acres of restored and maintained prairieland boasting over 150 species of wild plants are walkable using trails on the north side of Gordon F. Moore Park in Alton. See native plant and animal species and seasonal flowering vegetation. The walk through Heartland Prairie is a beginner level trail- it is not paved.
Note: The Nature Institute does not allow any pets on the premises. Do not pick flowers, take rocks, feathers, deer antlers, etc. from the property. Trails are for foot traffic only- no bicycles. No smoking, drinking, fires, fireworks, or guns are allowed on the property. Picnic only at Talahi Lodge. Pack out what you pack in and please do not litter. Stay on official TNI trails and do not wander into wooded or grassland areas.
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