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Riverside Nature Center - a great place for a holiday visit

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Riverside Nature Center at 150 Francisco Lemos in Kerrville offers a great place for a family holiday visit. There is no fee, and the outdoor trails are perfect for youngsters to burn up a little energy. On the day of our recent visit, several family groups used the serene backgrounds as the perfect settings for their official Christmas portraits.
Even though many of the plants are dormant in this season, budding botanists can learn to identify a wide variety of native plants on the meandering trails overlooking the Guadalupe River. On a recent visit, my family agreed that we must plant a Monterrey Oak in our back yard. The specimen at RNC displays a tower of deep green beauty that brought each of us to a pause as we strolled around the back yard. "We've got to have one of those!" we all agreed.
Formerly a small farm, the RNC has been transformed into an urban wildlife and native plant sanctuary. Most of the plants have handy identification markers, but you might want to bring a pair of binoculars and a good birding book, or get "the app for that!"
Comfy benches on a roomy back porch face a mass of feeders that practically insist that visitors "set a spell" while enjoying the songs of an assortment of birds.
The main building provides offices, the gift shop and areas for special displays. The current archaeological exhibit, "17,000 Years of Hill Country Life," has been extended through February 2014. The exhibit outlines the lives of early Hill Country inhabitants, with excellent displays of stone points and other tools. A large collection of graphically displayed Texas cave paintings comes to life on the walls.
The RNC office and visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm. The arboretum and self-guided gardens and trails are open dawn to dusk.
The city of Kerrville has recently completed a trail along the Guadalupe that starts at the RNC and continues to Louise Hays Park. Informative markers along the trail provide information about wildlife that might be spotted along the way. Children enjoy identifying the animal footprints in the concrete walkways.
RNC was organized in 1989 and the property was purchased in 1992. Over the years, generous donors and lots of volunteers have worked to improve this unique community education project. A rainwater collection and watering system has been installed. HEB donated the Lawson Store, an early 1900s one-room grocery store. More than 100 native Hill Country trees have been planted by volunteers. The property now covers about five acres.
Call for more information about the center's Junior Naturalist program, summer camps and volunteer needs. The grounds and facilities are also available for weddings and social events, classes, club meetings. Call 830-257-4837.

Pictured: Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Native grasses looks their best in the fall at Riverside Nature Center.

Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
An easily walked river trail winds down the hillside below RNC to the Guadalupe River and continues to Louise Hays Park.

Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Trail markers share information about wildlife and environmental issues along the riverside trail.