Jester Park

Education at Jester Park

Jester Park Nature Center
Great Hall
Woodland Island

Wetland Island
Prairie Island
Habitat Wall

Polk County Conservation naturalists offer many year-round nature programs. To request a Nature News to learn about upcoming programs at Lewis A. Jester Park and other parks in Polk County send an email to and put ADD TO MAILING LIST in the reference line. For current listings, click on the EVENTS tab above or visit the calendar on our website at

Jester Park Nature Center

One of Iowa’s leading nature centers, the Jester Park Nature Center is a gateway to experience Iowa’s natural environment. As a place where education and tourism intersect, this facility  provides exceptional value to this region. Serving as the welcome center, portal to Polk County’s family of parks, and Jester Park’s new front porch, tourists, students, educators, families, and others connect through the nature center to the natural playscape and bison/elk exhibit, restored woodlands, Saylorville Lake, and a network of natural trails that will immerse people back into nature.

As visitors walk downstairs to the lower level of the Nature Center, they can explore displays representing three major habitats at Jester Park: wetlands, prairie, and woodlands. These displays help visitors identify plant and animal species in the park, discover relationships and connections between different species in the ecosystem.

Wetlands Island
Explore either side of a freestanding display that depicts a wetland habitat. Visitors can scoop up aquatic animals and look through a microscope to understand the importance of wetlands and good water quality. Along the critter wall, visitors can enjoy the large aquariums with live turtles and fish.

Prairie Island
Discover what lies beneath the sea of grass and flowers. Young visitors can crawl through a root-filled space to discover a variety of animals living underground like a fox and her pups or a pocket gopher. Above ground they can search for a three-dimensional ornate box turtle and bull snake along with real bison and elk fur. Visitors can lift interpretive panels "buried" in the ground form and discover creatures in their underground burrows.

Woodland Island
This exhibit depicts a forest floor, with sculpted mushrooms. Visitors can become nature detectives, using clues like animal tracks or scat to see if they can identify what creatures have been in the forest. Visitors can crawl thru the sculpted log to explore the "basement" of the woodland habitat revealing the secret relationship between plant, animals and the soil that supports them.

Habitat Wall
A large magnetic Habitat wall allows visitors to engage in free form play. Visitors will be free to make their own meaningful connections to the animals and plants found in Iowa while "playing" with magnets.

Naturalist Nook
Investigate natural items left by our naturalists or park visitors to discover and identify. A puppet theater allows free play for the young visitor. There is also space for reading books and playing with games.

Outdoor Exhibits: Features two outdoor patios; t​rails; prairie, woodland and ​wetland habitats.



Nature Center Hours:
Spring/Summer Hours

Friday Preceding Memorial Weekend - Labor Day
Monday - Thursday | 9 AM - 8 PM
Friday - Saturday | 9 AM - 5 PM
Sunday & Open Holidays | Noon - 5 PM

Fall/Winter Hours
Tuesday After Labor Day - Thursday Preceding Memorial Day
Monday - Friday | 9 AM - 4 PM
Saturday | 10 AM - 4 PM
Sunday & Open Holidays | Noon - 4 PM

Holidays Closed:
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Easter Day
New Year's Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving Day