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Published: March 13th 2011
Despite the unyielding, brisk wind blowing down the Ole Missouri River, I had the pleasure of visiting the Remington Nature Center. Upon stepping through the entrance, I was immediately confronted with a life-size mammoth standing guard at the front desk. It was obvious that the long, reddish-brown fur was grown to protect the mammal from the cold of the ice age. Its tusks extending out and looked monstrous as I stood there dwarfed by the sheer size of this creature. After a moment of marveling at this wonder I noticed that peering out from behind it’s mother’s leg was a small calf. Further observation showed that the bones that lay near the mammoth were actually from a real mammoth found here in Buchanan County, MO.
After introducing myself, I was greeted in a very friendly manner and told that The Center was a self-guided tour. After readying my camera, the first exhibit I came to was the 7,000 gallon aquarium that was home to several fish that are native to the Missouri River. A short stroll down the hallway brought me to a stunning white wolf that was standing at a stern attention, his gaze locked on something
Above the wolf was a mountain lion that looked ready to pounce from the top of the partition he was seated on. As my eyes settled down to the hallway before me, a black bear came into view, the display included a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike at the nearest threat. Upon exploring a little further, a bobcat, frozen in an instant as he had barely missed having a bird for a meal and a coyote creeping through the tall grass of the display.
Then my attention was drawn towards the end of the hallway where a small group of children had gathered around something. Whatever it was seemed to be entertaining them and the parents that accompanied with them. After waiting for several minutes the group moved on. It looked like a fancy sandbox until it started. It would select an animal on the side and then it would appear that the animal was walking across the sand, leaving it’s footprints behind. Unfortunately, my camera could not record the motion of the footprints.
At the end of the hall was a room that housed a life-size buffalo and many Native American items, including
arrow heads, war clubs, and bow and arrows. In a wooden container located on the buffalo display, were real tufts of buffalo hair that visitors could feel. A painting behind the buffalo showed a plain that was crowded with buffalo. What a sight that would have been for a hunter to come over a rise and seeing hundreds of buffalo grazing. Examining the cases of arrow heads, it is hard to imagine the effort that went into making them and how they were used to gain food. Exiting this room put me at the beginning of the replicated cave.
The first thing I noticed was the paintings on the cave walls, a duplication of Native American cave paintings. The first display I came to was a Native American man wrapped in animal fur sitting next to a fire. It was interesting to note that in the next case was the skull of a sabre-tooth tiger. The time period being represented was the Paleo Period. Winding through the cave took you through time for thousands of years to see how Native Americans had interacted with and used the land. From a Native American woman tending corn to a Shaman concocting
an ancient medicine, it was fascinating to see examples of the lives lived so long ago. Coming out of the cave brought our time travel into the 1800s.
A trapper’s tent provides the doorway into the nineteenth century where life was drastically different from what I had just walked through. A small reproduction of street life in a town in the mid-1800s showed a stark contrast to the Native American way of life. Further displays included a steering wheel of a steamboat, a saddle from the Pony Express, and the front of a steam engine train. As I rounded the corner there were two civil war uniforms, one belonged to a Confederate General that was a former mayor of St. Joseph named M. Jeff Thompson and a Union Colonel named Robert Smith. If you were to look closely at the uniforms, you would see the intricate differences in how they were sewn and in styles. An assortment of Civil War heavy ammunition shows how grave combat was during that time period.
The education was very gratifying as I was walking back to the front desk. In just under an hour I stepped back 10,000 years in time and
walked away with a new appreciation of the land around me and the difficult lives that of human beings endured for centuries.
As I was leaving I was already making a plan to return in the spring to photograph the outdoor trail and exhibits. I have lived in the Midwest all of my life and never realized the extent of the history of the land that we now call ours.
The Center also offers educational programs for kids and adults that cover nature crafts, animal and wildlife and other cultural programs. If you truly want a learning experience that is engaging and will even hold the attention of kids, then I highly recommend visiting the Center!
You can explore the Remington Nature Center of St. Joseph yourself at 1502 MacArthur Drive, St. Joseph, MO 64505 or contact them at 816-271-5499 for more information.
Visit their website at: www.stjoenaturecenter.info
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