Tacoma Nature Center

The Tacoma Nature Center is located in the heart of Tacoma, offering hiking trails, learning opportunities, and one of the most unique kids play areas in the region. This is a nature preserve, surrounded by some really dense development. But hiding between busy roads and freeways, the preserve holds Snake Lake, a small wetland lake holding an abundance of wildlife. There are more than 20 different species of mammals and about 100 species of birds. It is also home to reptiles, amphibians and native plant populations. You can hike a one mile trail around Snake Lake or add another half mile by taking a side loop that adds some elevation climbing into your walk. A shorter loop can be done by taking the first bridge across the lake instead of the second bridge at the far end. A self-guiding booklet in the visitors center or online can teach you all about nature at numbered stops along the way. The interpretive center has informative displays with wetland, watershed and wildlife exhibits.

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Near the parking lot is a natural play area for children designed to inspire creative play and environmental learning. It has unconventional play features like a tree house, boulder scramble, slide inside a hollow log, snag climb, pond with waterfalls and log crossing. You can even reserve the play area for parties for a fee so it isn't always open to the public.
1919 S. Tyler Street Tacoma, Wa 98405

Discovery Pond

As the City of Tacoma grew, so did the number of people visiting Snake Lake. In 1890, the Tacoma-Lake City Railway was put in place on the eastside of Snake Lake. The railway was constructed as a pleasure train, taking passengers from the hill above Old Town (26th Street) to a resort on American Lake. The railway closed after just seven years of operation, but the flat, even grade still is evident on the forested side of the lake.
Snake Lake soon became a popular recreation area. Many people ice-skated on its frozen waters in the winter. One tragic day in 1908, two boys died after falling through the ice. Twenty years later, Snake Lake and the surrounding area became part of the Metropolitan Parks District, a gift of R. A. Booth and others. In the early 1970s William Glundberg, director of Metro Parks Tacoma, recognized the potential for a nature center on the site. Countless people and organizations, including Tahoma Audubon Society's Helen Engle, Bob Ramsey and Thelma Gilmur, fought long and hard to preserve the land and promote nature education. Citizens began to discover the wonderful resource in their own backyards. When plans to construct State Route 16 right over the lake were revealed, concerned citizens and officials realized building on top of a wetland would create drainage problems. The road was designed to bridge Snake Lake instead. In 1972 the bridge over the south end of the lake was completed. The park was dedicated in 1979 with an advisory board in place. Portable buildings arrived in 1981, and tours began for school and community groups as well as summer day camp programs. Ten years later, the current interpretive center was completed with money from the 1986 "Parks for People" bond issue. School and group tours, outreach programs, community programs and special events all grew to meet the needs of an ever-growing and changing population.
Tacoma Nature Center Tacoma Nature Center Discovery Pond Discovery Pond Tacoma Nature Center map Tacoma Nature Center Discovery Pond Tacoma Nature Center Tacoma Nature Center Snake Lake Snake Lake Turtles Snake Lake Tacoma Nature Center Tacoma Nature Center Tacoma Nature Center Tacoma Nature Center Visitors Center Tacoma Nature Center map
Visitors Center
Tacoma Nature Center Trail Map
Tacoma Nature Center - Visitors Center
Tacoma Nature Center - Visitors Center
Discovery Pond
Discovery Pond
Discovery Pond
First Bridge
Second Bridge and Highway 16
Snake Lake from First Bridge
Snake Lake from First Bridge
Trail along the west side of Snake Lake
Trail along the east side of Snake Lake
Hillside Loop Trail
Snake Lake from Second Bridge