Press-Republican

Local News

January 31, 2009

Wild Center must-see for locals and visitors, too

When the Wild Center opened its doors in Tupper Lake two years ago, advance notice hailed it as "the information site on the natural history of the Adirondacks."

Somehow it has taken us this long to finally make our first visit. And we're sold! This ranks as a must-see place for both North Country natives and anyone traveling through the region.

The facility is handsome from the outside, with its stone columns and simulated "brainstorm" siding. A soaring atrium bordered by birch trees greets those entering the interior. Even on a cloudy day, the many windows assure a light, airy presence. Friendly smiles and quick offers of information from staff make visitors happy to be there.

TURTLE TRIO

A simulated glacier, complete with occasional avalanche, marks the beginning of the exhibit area. Immediately, one finds the mix of serious information and lightheartedness that makes the center appealing.

We learned that the last Ice Age saw a 2-mile-thick sheet of ice over upstate New York, formidable enough to make striations into bedrock and carry those massive boulders we see scattered through mountain and forest. Then there's a Dec. 3, 72996 B.C., newspaper headline -- "Schools were cancelled throughout the Northern Hemisphere for the 28th-million consecutive day." A global cooling crisis was blamed.

From there, one walks clockwise along the "Living River Trail," through exhibits awash with text, interactive posts and live animals. A re-created oxbow marsh shows northern pike and other fish swimming about. Wood ducks floated -- and occasionally raced -- atop the water. A trio of turtles basking on a log attracted plenty of attention.

At the Bog Lab, a cushioned platform gives the sensation of walking across a floating layer of sphagnum moss. Along with specimens of bog orchids and snapping turtles, there are insect-eating plants. An oversized model of a pitcher plant reveals the secrets of its effectiveness in trapping the insects it requires for dietary protein.

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