Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nature and History of a River Town

I happened to be visiting my family in St. Joseph, Missouri, the day the new Remington Nature Center opened. The new museum on the banks of the Missouri River presents a fine look at both the flora and fauna of the area and the history of the old river town from the first Native American settlements to the early 20th century.

The museum is equally divided between the two types of exhibits, providing something to entrance just about everyone in the family. Visitors are greeted by a 10,000 year-old wooly mammoth at the front door, then meander past a collection of fossil remains found in the area. A 7,000 gallon aquarium holds fish endemic to the Missouri River flowing just a hundred yards from the front door. One of the most intriguing displays is a sand table where you can watch the tracks of various Missouri animals appear and disappear as if their ghosts are strolling across the sand before your eyes.

There's a full-scale model beaver home with exquisite detail as well as several interactive environmental displays where you can hear everything from the call of an eagle to the buzz of the honeybees that make the region their home.

A surprisingly complete history of man's impact on the area is contained in a stroll-through section that includes dioramas of Native Americans in the Mississipian period making pottery, a fur trapper's tent, and a trader's cabin modeled after the one used by Joseph Robidoux, the town's founder. Theater productions include presentations about St. Joseph's role in the California Gold Rush and the Oregon Trail. You even walk through a section of a street from the early days of the town and peer into storefronts re-created by merchants of the pioneer era.

The Remington Nature Center is located at 1502 MacArthur Drive in St. Joseph, Missouri. The easiest way to find it is to follow signs to the riverfront casino.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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