Skip to main content

The Wild Center: An Adirondack Experience

A Virtual Adventure Through The Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks

By: Thomas W. Gorman © 2009

Throughout the year, thousands of people from across the United States, Canada and many international locations, converge on the six million acre Adirondack Park, located in the upper two thirds of New York State. Individuals and families alike, will venture to places such as: Lake George, Indian Lake and the Lake Placid Regions, knowing that when they arrive at their destinations, that they will be able to relax and enjoy the numerous activities that are available to them.

Many of the activities which bring people to make the trip to the Adirondacks are boating, hiking, camping, fishing, autumn foliage, skiing, and canoeing, just to name a few. For those who make the trip to the Adirondacks, no matter what your destination may be, there is a spectacular site to visit which is easily traveled to, and you are assured to have another wonderful Adirondack experience.

About The Wild Center

Photo: Natural History Museum Of The Adirondacks © Thomas W. Gorman

The Wild CenterIn early July 2006, the newly built Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, commonly known as The Wild Center, opened in Tupper Lake, NY.

The Wild Center is ingeniously based on science, research and a simple concept based on our relationship with the environment, which may help us to better understand and appreciate the Adirondacks.

In the three short years which The Wild Center has been open, thousands of visitors have entered through their doors and are enthralled by the numerous living exhibits, static exhibits, displays, hands-on displays and activities, as well as, an assortment of movies about the Adirondacks.

Journey Into The Wild

When people enter the main doors into the Great Hall, they immediately feel relaxed, and they notice the living world around them, within The Wild Center. You are greeted by friendly volunteers, whose pleasant demeanor and knowledge, is beyond reproach. You first view numerous white birch trees, each surrounded by granite slabs, which follow the circular design of the large area of the Great Hall, and which reach as high as the approximately 40' tall ceiling. Then you will notice a wall of windows facing toward the Blue Pond and its surrounding trails.

As you look out the windows, you will notice that the inside of the building is below the level of the pond and you are at a waist high, level with the water line. To your right, you now begin your journey through the living exhibition area. The living exhibition starts off with a pond which is complete with live turtles, wood ducks, sunfish, bass, frogs, insects and other live pond life. Next there is a living lake, containing fish species, such as sturgeon, catfish and various lake fish. This exhibit, is then followed by a living bog and forest area. After the living forest, you will come upon a very large, living stream filled with assorted trout, that leads to a simulated Adirondack peak which includes its own waterfall. This exhibit is quite popular as it is the home of the resident river otters, which are very active and provide much entertainment, within their living area.

More Wild Fun

Photo: Black Bear Skull Display At The Wild Center © Thomas W. Gorman

Wild Center ExhibitOnce you leave the living exhibition area, you enter into another open area called the "Find Out Forest", which has many high definition screens, where you can choose which movie about the Adirondacks that you wish to watch. All of the movies are spectacularly created, and well worth the time to watch.

Nearby you also will notice a moving wall, designed to give the impression of events that appeared during the ice age, and how those events were an integral part in the formation of the Adirondacks. Every so often, the sound of ice grinding and crashing will occur, and the wall will begin moving. This replication is based on scientific research and how scientists believe what occurred during the ice age. Here, there are also hands-on displays which further enhance your experience.

In the many areas where there are hands-on displays you can do many things such as: simulate walking on a bog, or hear the sounds and scents of many forms of wildlife, or feel the extreme cold of an ice structure. Also you can see and form your own cloud and even create a wind formed dune.

The Wild Center also schedules their daily animal experience, where the staff will introduce you to one of their many resident animals or bird species, and explain their background and lifestyle.

Throughout the inside of The Wild Center, there is such a large variety of displays, exhibitions and activities to see and enjoy. The panoramas theatre, to the left of the main entrance, provides locally produced movies pertaining to the Adirondacks, and also is used for lectures and other activities. To the left of the Blue Pond windows is the Riverside Cafe and the entrance to the trails which you can either walk on your own, or join one of the naturalist guides on a walk through.

Outside In The Wild

Photo: Band-Winged Meadowhawk Dragonfly © Thomas W. Gorman

Wild Center DragonflyThe trails are easy for people of all ages, and they meander throughout the 31 acres which comprise The Wild Center property. At one point, the trail system will terminate at the Raquette River, where you can see a gorgeous vista of one of the many of the Adirondack mountain ranges, as well as a beautiful view of a section of the Raquette River.

What is really impressive, is the fact that this property was previously a sand/gravel mining facility. Now, with the difficult and dedicated work accomplished by the staff, volunteers and contractors, nature has reclaimed what once was a major eyesore in the area. The work here is on-going, and the excellent results are a testament to the interaction between nature and people. The man-made three acre Blue Pond, is now home to many fish, amphibians and insects, and the re-forested areas are now seeing a return of many species of Adirondack birds and other wildlife.

Wild... And Green, Too!

Keeping with the theme of the Adirondacks and environmental matters, The Wild Center is a highly efficient and environmentally friendly facility. One visible example of this, is their Bio Building, which is constructed with a solar paneled and green roofed edifice. Plans are also in effect for construction of a state of the art, 90% efficiency rated heating system, which will be the first of it's kind used by a major organization in New York. The Wild Center happens to be the first museum in New York State which has received the internationally recognized U.S. Green Buildings Council, LEED Green Building Certification.

A Must-See Adirondack Attraction

For whatever reason, or activities that bring individuals and families to travel to the Adirondacks, they now have another spectacular place to visit. The average time most people spend at The Wild Center is about 3 hours, and they leave feeling inspired, further educated and more in awe of the Adirondacks and its origins, then ever before.

The mission statement of The Wild Center is " ignite an enduring passion for the Adirondacks, where people and nature can thrive together and set an example for the world..." This statement is very evident as you tour the exhibitions, displays and trail systems. The Wild Center is by far, the newest jewel of the Adirondacks, and is a must-see for visitors and locals alike.

Article originally appeared in Lake Placid News October 2009 Print Issue
Republished with permission
Photos and text © Thomas W. Gorman 2009

Visit The Wild Center »

Find more things to do in the Adirondacks »