Nature Adventure Garden

The Nature Adventure Garden, on the east side of MNHC between the river trail and our building, is designed to be a play area that is almost entirely free of traditional structures. In lieu of swings and typical playground equipment, it features boulders, hills, shrubs, and the natural structure that the research links to creative and healthy play.

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The Nature Adventure Garden incorporates a variety of native plants to attract insects and birds. It also reflects the Montana Natural History Center’s mission of education by serving as a demonstration garden, showing how under-utilized space can be transformed into an area for creative, unstructured play.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Kiwanis Club of Missoula, we’ve been able to add improvements that make the Nature Adventure Garden accessible to people with disabilities: a wide, crushed-granite trail that wanders through the garden; a sensory garden featuring native plants that engage the senses of smell and touch; and a more welcoming entrance encouraging families to step inside, play, and explore.

Our Nature Adventure Garden provides a fun stop for kids and grownups to visit along the Clark Fork Riverfront Trail. Stop by and play!

Playing in Nature is good for children.
Children who get outside for unstructured play time benefit in all kinds of ways, both physically and psychologically.

Children make the rules in nature-play. They let their imaginations soar, finding new ways to use their intelligence, negotiation skills, and creativity. Rocks, sticks, and dirt have limitless possibilities in the eyes of a child!

Playing in nature can reduce anxiety and help with stress. A break outdoors is a natural attention builder, helping manage Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms and increase self-esteem, confidence, tolerance, and empowerment.

Outside play is good for the body, too. Being outside in nature encourages kids to be active and moving. It helps build strong bodies and immune systems.

And time outside is fun! It inspires curiosity and scientific learning, and it fosters respect for other living things.

Student Illustration
Willard H.S. students helped design the space with a focus on nature art, natural history education, places for quiet reflection, and even a bit of magic.

We are thankful to our partners for their help in bringing this garden to life:

Montana Native Plant Society
Gecko Fencing and Landscape
Eagle Scouts
Missoula Parks and Recreation
Willard High School
Wild Ones
Blackfoot Native Plants
Montana Environmental Education Society
Endangered Species Coalition
Kiwanis Club of Missoula