Adventure Awaits You In The Forest Just Minutes From Downtown Omaha
When people from Nebraska think of the Omaha Metro, they think of the ‘big city’ and exciting urban attractions. They think of the Old Market, CHI Health Center (arena), College World Series and the Zoo. It’s true, we have amazing restaurants, concerts, sports activities and a world-renowned zoo.
What people often don’t realize is that it’s also home to one of Nebraska’s oldest conservation organizations and one of the largest private nature centers in the nation.
Fontenelle Forest encompasses over 2,100 acres of forest, prairie and wetlands along the Missouri River in the geographically significant Loess Hills. While technically located in Bellevue, Nebraska, the Forest is just minutes from downtown Omaha. The forest also owns and manages a second nature center at Neale Woods, accompanied by 600 acres of undeveloped Missouri River Valley in the Ponca Hills north of downtown Omaha.
How far you want to get lost in nature is totally dependent on you and your hiking skills. The Forest maintains 24 miles of trails, which are open year-round. Walking our trails is an experience unlike any other in the Omaha Metro area. In a single afternoon, you’ll encounter a range of vastly different ecosystems, from deciduous forest to oak savanna, prairie, and wetlands. We ask that you dress for the weather, and try not to actually get lost (we love a good party, but not a rescue party).
For those who want to enjoy nature, but don’t want to venture too far off the beaten path, our boardwalk is for you. Enjoy a leisurely stroll while observing wildlife, the changing seasons, and beautiful views of the Missouri River on our mile-long boardwalk. It is ADA-accessible, so it’s perfect for wheelchairs, strollers and little ones who are just learning to explore nature and don’t yet own hiking gear. If you need help taking the next step, Fontenelle rents out binoculars, power scooters, wheelchairs, strollers or snowshoes (during the winter months).
New to the Forest is TreeRush Adventures, which provides climbing and zip-lining excitement to fun-seekers ages four to adult. Explore suspended bridges, rope ladders, zip lines and other aerial surprises with family and friends. Trails are designed for beginners to experts and the park is open in spring, summer and autumn. Feel the rush of excitement and empowerment while exploring nature from a unique vantage point - up to 55 feet above the forest floor. Learn more about TreeRush Adventures at TreeRush.com.
Even on the coldest days there’s something to do. At Habitat Hollow, children can learn about animals on display and play nature games. Animal costumes for kids and many interactive nature-themed activities ensure families can have a great time regardless of weather.
Beyond the fish, frogs, snakes and the turtle of Habitat Hollow, guests can visit birds of prey like eagles, vultures, hawks and owls at Raptor Woodland Refuge. Thirty feet above the forest ﬂoor, this canopy-level exhibit is designed according to the natural habitat of the rescued birds housed within these mews. Each visit is its own unique adventure, story and memory to share.
These birds play a vital role in our ecosystem, so as one of Fontenelle Forest’s environmental stewardship objectives the raptor refuge sees more than 600 birds of prey a year. Some birds that are permanently injured or otherwise cannot be rehabilitated to survive in the wild stay in the Raptor Woodland Refuge and become involved in raptor education programing.
Providing care for raptors is just one part of Fontenelle Forest’s mission to preserve the ecological diversity of the forest for future generations of humans and animals. That means doing research and getting volunteers involved. Conservation at the forest uses a simple approach: focus on maintaining a balanced environment where animals will want to live. With the healthiest trees, the richest soil, the cleanest air possible, the creatures that make the forest harmonious and happy will follow. The vision of Fontenelle Forest is to be a national leader in environmental stewardship and education and the region’s premier nature center. Through our efforts in Oak Savanna restoration, invasive species control and prescribed fire (along with many other conservation efforts), the Forest is quickly becoming regarded as a leader in conservation and land management techniques both regionally and nationally.
Fontenelle Forest offers a variety of opportunities for nature enthusiasts and explorers of all ages. Whether you want to go for a leisurely walk through nature, are an avid birder or animal lover, or are looking for a place to hike deep into the forest (that doesn’t require a long drive to get there) Fontenelle Forest has something for you. Weekly events like group hikes and yoga as well as special events like art gallery receptions, lectures and raptor shows are listed on the Forest’s website calendar at http://www.fontenelleforest.org.