Along the Natchez Trace

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Visit to the Visitor's Center

The Visitor Center at Aroostook NWR, way up here in the NE corner of Maine, is one of the nicer ones that we've worked at or visited.

As you drive down the road into the center, the first thing you see is a kiosk, with the American Flag along side it...
This kiosk has all kinds of information about this refuge and about the National Wildlife system in general.  Just to the right of the kiosk is the beginning (or end) of the Don Lima Trail.  That's a 1.2 mile walking trail that, while not really wheelchair accessible, is a very easy walk.  Don Lima was the first Refuge Manager here when the refuge was established in 1998.

The outside of the visitor center isn't outstanding...
It's actually left over from the days when this was an Air Base.  This building was used as a place where the airmen, stationed "beyond the gate" could meet their family.  

This is what you first see when entering the Visitor Center.  That blue flannel board at the middle left is the Maine Junior Duck Stamp exhibit showing the artwork that was submitted in 2010.  The manager here is the coordinator for Maine for the Jr Duck Stamp program.  That's a whole blog in itself...  another time.

You can see the entrance on the left...  with the rack of brochures and various other information.  The counter is where the "volunteer" sits...  to welcome visitors, answer the phone, or whatever....

There are a lot of wildlife "mounts" on display here.  Most were donations or were mounted from illegal (poached) kills.  That fireplace is huge...  it opens on both sides....

Here's the other side of the fireplace...  (it's just below the black bear mount).

This display is a favorite with the kids.  Yeah, they like the moose, but they see a lot of those all the time... They like the rubber molds of footprints and....  scat!  There's just something about kids that they love seeing poop...  especially if they can tease a fellow classmate with it....  doesn't matter that it's just rubber.

This is my favorite display...
The kids can touch anything...  pick it up...  look at it with a magnifying glass....  pretty much whatever they want.

I'm always finding different things to add to the table.
Dead butterflies, wasp nests, lichen, feathers, snake skins....
The only thing is...  I better know what it is and "who" it belongs to, because I'll be asked questions!

All the above are things the refuge has on display.  The Friend's Group has a wonderful Nature Store...
Everything that is for sale is focused on nature.  There's something for all ages...  and all prices.  There's some lovely books for children as well as some field guides for adults.  This photo shows only one wall.... the other 2 walls are also lined with shelves that display the goods.

Caribou, Maine is a nearby city (10 miles west).  While there haven't been caribou living there for many, many years, this guy was brought in as a display.  He's not for sale, but adds a nice touch to the Nature Store.

One last view of the Nature Store....  
There is a sliding gate that closes off this area which can close off the area when needed.

Personally, I think this is a great Visitor Center.  Unfortunately, this refuge has only 1 full-time employee, who is an equipment operator and also does the maintenance,  and the manager who has to divide his time between this refuge and Moosehorn NWR, which is 150 miles south.  There just isn't the manpower to keep the visitor center open every day.

During the winter, there are local volunteers who come Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm until 4pm.

Summer hours are Sunday noon to 4pm, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm until 4pm.

The visitors that come here are often former military personnel who were stationed here or at Loring AFB, which abuts us.  We'll also get locals who are curious about what the place is about, as well as folks on vacation or just passing through.  Since this is a fairly young refuge, many people have never been beyond the yellow gate.

Bill & I give tours, either scheduled ahead, or anytime if we're available.  Some of my favorite memories are seeing the excitement on a person's face when they see a bear or moose.  Or hearing the stories of a former military man.  The hardest thing for me is to keep the tour down to an hour ...  or two.....

If any of you are ever up here in this part of Maine, I hope you'll stop by and visit...

And I'd love to take you on a tour of the refuge!

That's All For Today!


  1. That is a pretty nice visitors center. Suggest that they put in some nice slabs with full hookups, and I bet they'd get some volunteers. :)

  2. That's a really nice, well-maintained visitor center. Do you have to keep it clean? I see they have a rack of those cuddly, stuffed birds for sale. I always have to stop and check them out whenever I see them.

  3. Thanks for the tour of the visitor center. It sure looks like a terrific store.

  4. Wow Sharon what a nice tour guide you are. Very nice blog.

  5. I love Maine. I've been to Acadia twice and would love to go back. I never have like the Centers with the mounted heads or stuffed animals.

    I've asked about them and was assured the animals all died of natural causes but jeeeeez I don't like looking at them stuffed...

    Other than that? gorgeous! ;)

  6. Den and I were in Maine a couple times..He was stationed in Saratoga Springs NY at a gap filler radar site during his Air Force we go out East every chance we get..Maine is like a very small scale Alaska..No huge mountains, but the wildlife abounds!! I'm jealous!..Have you ever tried to drive up Mt. Washington?..Every time we did, the roads were closed due to high winds and snow...even in the summer.

  7. Hi Sharon-

    The first time that Teri and I visited Aroostook NWR last year we came into the Visitor Center and thought it was empty. We called out "Hello", and were answered with a "Howdy" from Bill!! That is how we met you two. After visiting for a bit we went out to explore that wonderful refuge, and then came back another day for one of your VIP tours.

    We are enjoying your blog so much, as it reminds us of our summer in "The County"...