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Living Life to the Fullest In Southwest Missouri

Southeast Kansas Nature Center

Southeast Kansas Nature Center

I originally wrote this article “Galena’s Hilltop Sanctuary” for Show Me the Ozarks Magazine’s July 2015 issue (flip to page 66). I’ve included the text below, with permission from the magazine. For other articles on the faces and places of the region, check out the current issue of Show Me the Ozarks here.



Perched high atop a hill overlooking Shoal Creek, it acts as a beacon for those who want to explore and connect with nature in the Ozark Plateau Region.


sek overlook

View of Shoal Creek from the center.


This is the Southeast Kansas Nature Center. Located one mile south of Galena, Kansas, it’s one of the most inviting attractions in the Four States.


sek side


As a frequent visitor, I’ve learned many facts about plants and animals here. But what continues to draw me to the center is its welcoming staff, which consists of Director Jenn Rader and several volunteers. Their passion for what they do is palpable, and their friendly spirit is contagious. Each time I visit, I feel like I’m coming home to family.


The creation of the center was a labor of love. In 2004, a group of devoted nature lovers transformed an old scouting building into this nature center.


sek center


Led by Linda Phipps, this group of volunteers operated the center until the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism took charge in 2013, providing the center with state funding, and hiring Rader as its director.


Yet Phipps continues to volunteer at the center; I see her about as often as I see Rader.


sek linda

Linda reading to my daughter.


The center’s nearly 8,000 yearly visitors are fortunate to experience their shared knowledge and enthusiasm. In 2015, Rader received a Rising Star Award from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environment Education, which is presented to new professionals in the field who are making an impact.


Rader happily shares her wealth of knowledge about the snakes, turtles, salamanders, scorpions, spiders, and other creatures that live in the habitats throughout the center.  “If just one visitor walks away having learned something new and is excited about it, that’s what I enjoy most about my job!”


sek jenn

Jenn showing my daughter a tiny snake.


Rader recalls encountering one of the center’s most unusual creatures. “As I was talking with some visitors in the center, a large 7-inch centipede came crawling into the room,” she says. “We discovered that it had probably found its way in under the back door to the center. It’s now on display for visitors to see.”


Other popular areas at the center include the exploration drawers (which contain items like turtle shells and animal pelts), and the one-way birdwatching window (which allows people to observe birds without startling them).


sek inside

Lots of animal habitats to see and many drawers to explore!


Twice each month, the center offers preschool story times, when children get to listen to a nature-themed story, and then do a craft. Around Easter, the center does an egg scavenger hunt, where children receive clues to the hidden eggs’ locations when they trivia questions about creatures in the center. What’s the reward for completing the egg hunt? Candy!


One spring, we had the opportunity to follow the progress of two sets of eggs (chicken and Japanese quail) that were incubating at the center. Watching those newly-hatched fluff balls run around their habitats was such a delight!


Often after our visits to the center, we step outside and explore the area, which includes Schermerhorn Park. There are hiking trails, a cave, picnic areas, a playground, and access to Shoal Creek.


sek cave

The cave.


A visit to the Southeast Kansas Nature Center always puts me in a great mood. Connecting with both nature and kind people instantly brightens my day.


sek tree canopy

There are picnic tables and a pavilion in this shaded area below the center.


The Southeast Kansas Nature Center is more than just a place to learn about nature.


It’s a sanctuary.




Southeast Kansas Nature Center is located at 311 South Main Street in Galena. Click here for more information, and click here to see the center’s Facebook page.



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Living Life to The Fullest!

Joplin MO LifeI love seeking out new experiences and finding places off the beaten path. I started Joplin MO Life in August 2013 as a way to share my discoveries with others in the Joplin community so that they can learn about the resources that exist right in their own backyards.

I have worked in education and event planning, and have always loved to write. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulane University.

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