Review of Salato Wildlife Education Center
Recently my kids and I decided to check out the Salato Wildlife Center in Frankfort, KY. You can’t miss the entrance – there’s a giant elk on the sign. But there are several buildings inside the complex including the headquarters for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. When you enter,drive all the way to the farthest parking lot in the back, right in front of the Salato Wildlife Education Center building.
When we got there, there was a live presentation and feeding of a hawk about to start inside, so we stayed in the center to watch. After the presentation, we walked around the building. The whole focus of the Wildlife Center is to highlight what we have in Kentucky including plants, animals, and resources. I was amazed at how much there is in Kentucky! Inside, they had fish, snakes (including Kentucky’s three venomous snakes), turtles, bees and other living things to look at, as well as stuffed bears, elk, deer, otters, coyotes, and many other animals that you were allowed to touch. There is a ton of information, but it is all presented in a kid-friendly way. There were also volunteers holding live animals throughout the center and outside in the exhibit area.
After seeing all of the Education Center, we headed out the back of the building to the many trails and outdoor exhibits.The whole area is stroller, wagon, and wheelchair friendly with paved paths. But there are also nature trails for more of a hiking experience. The map they give you at the welcome desk makes it very easy to navigate throughout the park (there is also an audio tour you can rent at the welcome desk which I would have loved to try out, but I didn’t think my kids would be patient enough to listen to it). We followed the paved trail around the exhibits to see bison, elk, deer, turkey,quail, fish, a bald eagle, skunk, a huge black bear, and wild cats including the official mascot of the University of Kentucky who lives at the center. In the quail area, there is a section for kids where you can pretend to be a lost quail looking for your mother. My kids wanted to do this little activity path over and over. My one complaint in the wildlife area was the lack of bathrooms. If you are all the wayin the back of the park by the Dragonfly Marsh, you have to walk quitea ways back to the main building to use the restroom. You would be wise to have your kids use the bathroom inside the Education Center before you head outside.
After we left the Wildlife area, we went to the welcome desk to borrow fishing poles. You need to leave your license or keys in exchange for the poles (if you plan to do some fishing, I suggest you go to the little gas station just down the road before you come into the park complex – they sell a container of live worm bait for under $4). We headed down to the lake which has spots for fishing all the way around it. We stayed on the parking lot side, but I saw a ton of people with lawn chairs and fishing gear all the way around the lake.
There are also multiple areas to sit and eat, including a picnic shelter where we saw a birthday party setup. We had packed our lunch, so we did stop to eat which was not only very scenic, but made our day very inexpensive. I did not see any soda or vending machines around, but luckily we had brought everything we needed for lunch.If you pack your lunch, do some fishing, walk around the lake, main building, and the wildlife area, you can definitely spend the majority of your day there. I recommend going on a day with good weather, but if you don’t mind the drive, you could spend a couple hours just inside the main building if the weather is not so nice.
The Salato Wildlife Education Center is closed on Sundays, Mondays, state holidays, and they are CLOSED FOR THE WINTER from mid December to mid February. But the whole complex is open from sunrise to sunset if you just wanted to hit the lake and picnic area. I recommend you check the website to ensure they are open, and check for any special events. The Salato Wildlife Education Center is $4 for adults, $2 for children 5-18 and free for kids under age 5. Children age 15 and under do not need a fishing license, but adults can purchase a fishing license there if you want to do some fishing as well. All in all it was a terrific day. Beautiful weather for walking around, amazing sites both inside and out, and tons of fun activities for my kids to play with without realizing they were learning. We’ll definitely head back again soon!
By guest contributor: Caryn