Heckrodt Wetland Reserve: All-Season Imaginative Play and Exploration

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Our family loves taking hikes, catching frogs, and exploring new trails. I grew up in Neenah and one place we would go for walks when I was a kid was Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha. At the time, there were only 1.2 miles of trails. I have recently started taking my two boys, ages 2 and 10, to Heckrodt and the place is unbelievable. With over 2 ½ miles of trails, a replica eagle’s nest, a treehouse and play area titled “World Beneath Your Feet”, mud kitchen, zip line, and Children’s Adventure Bridge, there is so much to do for children of any age.

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is located at 1305 Plank Rd, Menasha, WI 54952.

Trails at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve

The trails at Heckrodt are mostly boardwalks since it is a wetland reserve. It is very important to stay on the trails and not cut through the woods to the playground or other areas so that the area is protected. I love that the play area is on the “blue loop” which is a short .5 mile hike. The boys know that we hike for a little bit first before heading to the playground and my youngest helps by leading us in the right direction when he sees blue signs on the trail.

As it gets warmer out I am excited to try one of the other 4 trails. The yellow trail leads to Lopas Pond where there is a replica eagle’s nest that the kids can climb into to understand how large this bird of prey is. Each time we have gone this winter we have seen deer, and the last time we went there was a group of 6 deer that stayed within 50 yards of us while we played in the mud kitchen.

I suggest checking out the Scavenger Hunt page on Heckrodt Wetland Reserve’s website for a variety of printable scavenger hunts including sensory, prairie pollinators, and wetlands. It is a good way to keep the kids engaged while hiking on the trails. 

2 children looking at trail sign at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
childrens canopy walk at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
deer viewed from boardwalk at Heckrodt Wetland Preserve
tree house with slide straight at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve

The World Beneath Your Feet Play Area

The World Beneath Your Feet play area includes a canopy walk as well as a treehouse, slide, zip line, adventure course, and mud kitchen. Children are able to get a birds’ eye view of the nature that surrounds them and then crawl through tunnels and explore the dirt beneath their feet. There are beautiful, intricate wood carvings in the canopy walk and also an area where children have placed sticks to help build an eagle’s nest.

My 10-year-old loves the zip line, sitting in the teepee telling stories to his brother, and trying to beat his fastest time on the adventure course while I time him on my phone. My 2-year-old spends most of his time making snowball soup & mud cupcakes in the mud kitchen, playing hide and seek in the tunnels, and climbing the rope ladder to get to the top of the play structure.

zipline at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
teepee at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
Mud kitchen at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve
Childrens adventure bridge at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve

Programs at Heckrodt

I am excited to see how much the beauty of this place changes while we head into spring. Please follow them on Facebook to stay up to date with any events that are happening. Although their nature center is still closed because of COVID-19 protocol, they are hosting events that are outdoors and are held at a limited capacity. I recently signed my toddler up for an event through their Turtle Tots Preschool Adventure program that they have once a month. They still have openings for the following dates:

April
Baby Animals – Thursday, April 15th – 9:30-10:30 am
May
Wonders In The Wetland – Thursday, May 6th – 9:30-10:30 am
June
Fishy Fun! – Thursday, June 3rd – 9:30-10:30 am

Whether you are looking for a weekend adventure, something to do for your child’s Spring Break that is a short drive away, or a new trail to hike on with your family, I highly recommend Heckrodt Wetland Reserve.

We have visited every two weeks since February and each time we have seen different animals and tracks in the snow, found different ways to engage in the educational play area, and have tried different “recipes” in the mud kitchen.

I am excited for you to take the short drive there to have fun playing and exploring with your family. Please share your favorite thing about your trip when you return!

Note: Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is a private not-for-profit and doesn’t receive funding from any local, state, or federal governments. They rely on tax-deductible donations so that they can continue their mission of preservation, education, and recreation. Donations can be mailed in or given online through their website: https://heckrodt-wetland-reserve.networkforgood.com/projects/120777-support-hwr-2021