The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve has a new home, and it is beautiful! As of right now, it is still FREE! However with Florida's budget woes, who knows for how long...
I posted about the old place here last year. We were looking forward to visiting the new place and checking out what was new. Keep in mind they are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Their hours are 9am to 4:30pm Tuesday thru Saturday.
The building is LEED certified at the silver level. Some of the qualifying aspects of the LEED certification include, compact flourescent lights on motion sensors, design and construction of the facility with much of the property left undisturbed, pervious materials on parking areas, and rainwater capture system with storage cisterns underneath the building allowing the water to be collected for flushing toilets and irrigation.
This is the nature walk to the center, along this walk you will learn about pine flat woods, oak hammocks and marsh areas. Nice and shady. I love the sound of crushed gravel underneath me while walking in nature, don't you?
As you come to the visitor center, after you climb the steps, there is a local oyster boat built and donated by a local resident.
As you enter the etched double doors, the first thing you notice is the mural stretching across the entire wall. It tells the story, in picturesm, of the Apalachicola river traveling to the Gulf of Mexico. There are all sorts of critters depicted in this mural, and they are all labeled for your education.
The aquariums that were previously housed in a separate building are now new and incorporated into the general area in the new building. They are very nice, and allow you to see underwater alongside the habitats. The diversity in the old building is lacking in the new facility, however the presentation of what is there is very nice and we liked it better.
Sweetie Pie making faces at the Alligator Gar that guards the front door. No kidding, he sits right there and watches the front door!
The Rocket making faces at me through one of the aquatic displays(That is a white terrapin.).
A peek at the Gulf and Barrier island part of the mural. There are mounted pelicans "flying" over head just like they do down the coast over Highway 98. The sounds associated with the different areas of nature represented in the mural are playing in the backgound.
The education room, is MUCH better than before! We definitely enjoyed this room the most! Here is The Rocket playing the matching game, matching up adult sea creatures with the "just hatched" babies. It's harder than you think...
Microscope area with slides, for your viewing pleasure.
All of their preserved specimins, shell collection and bones are out on display for you to touch and examine! The collection is vast and showcased in the way they should be! Stadium seating is here in this room for educational presentations for kids. My kids used it as a stage instead...complete with "spotlight"!
Did you know that a dolphin's teeth are made of ivory?
Whale bones and baleen display.
Overall we are pleased with the new facility, however, what's missing is the bird watching area. I do hope they will eventually incorporate this area again. There is also an auditorium with a short movie playing daily, but sometimes there are people giving presentations or special movies playing. They have monthly meetings and programs for the public to enjoy and get educated about their unique setting in Florida.
If you are ever in the Apalachicola area, please stop by and check out this wonderful nature center!
The website for more information about the estuarine reserve is here.