520-Acre SE Minnesota Nature Center Started as Just One Tree in 1927
I had never heard of this nature center in Austin, Minnesota until my parents told me about it the other week. Yes, Austin is well known for the Spam Museum, but you also need to pay a visit to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.
How Did the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Start?
The nature center was originally the Hormel estate. Jay planted the first tree on the land in 1927, nearly 100 years ago. Then the Hormel estate was acquired by the city of Austin in 1971. At the time, the Hormel estate was 123 acres. Today, the nature center is 520 acres and is "a sanctuary for people and wildlife alike."
Educational Birds at the Jay C. Nature Center
Over the years the nature center has acquired a few birds as educational birds. The first one was in 1980, a "human-imprinted red-tailed hawk" named Red became the first educational bird of the nature center. Then in 2005 Guka, the barred owl, joined the nature center after he was impaired as a young bird. The most recent additions are Sha and Wiyaka, who are both red-tailed hawks that were injured as fledglings. They joined the nature center in 2017.
Not only do they have these educational birds, but they also take in raptors that have been injured or abandoned. If you find an injured or abandoned raptor in Mower County, contact the nature center at 507-437-7519.
Things You Can Do at the Jay C. Nature Center
The 50th anniversary of the Jay C. Nature Center is being celebrated right now! The next anniversary event is a performance by musician Tom Pease on Thursday, September 16th. It's a free event that starts at 6:30 PM. There are also plenty of trails to explore around the 520-acre nature center. You can find a trail map HERE. You can also rent kayaks and canoes between the end of May through mid/end of September depending on the year. This year kayak and canoe rentals end on September 25th.
If you're looking for other great places to enjoy Minnesota nature, take a look at Minnesota's most visited state parks.