Salato Wildlife Education Center
Salato Wildlife Education Center offers animal encounters in the heart of Kentucky.
Some of this information may be different for Salato Wildlife Education Center in 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic and changes they have made in order to open.
We recently took a short road trip to Salato Wildlife Education 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. Click here for a map of Salato.
The focus of the Wildlife Center is to highlight what we have in Kentucky including plants, animals, and resources. There is much to learn for kids and adults alike! Inside, they have fish, slithering snakes (including Kentucky’s three venomous snakes), turtles, bees and other living things to observe, 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 interacting with animals outside in the exhibit area.
Behind the Education Center, there is even more to explore. The exhibit area is stroller, wagon, and wheelchair friendly with paved paths, but there are also wooded nature trails for hiking. The map provided 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). We enjoyed watching the bison roam, the bald eagle watch us suspiciously, the wildcats pace, and the big black bear sleep. But our favorite was the groundhog outside in a pen. He seemed very friendly and was much more interested in playing than hiding. My one complaint in the wildlife area was the lack of bathrooms. If you are all the way in the back of the park by the Dragonfly Marsh, you have to walk quite a 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.
Other things to do at Salato
One unexpected thing about Salato Wildlife Education Center is the opportunity to fish. Just visit the welcome desk to borrow fishing poles (you’ll be asked 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. The lake has spots for fishing all the way around it. It may also be a good idea to bring a lawn chair if you prefer not to stand.
There are also multiple areas to sit and eat, including a picnic shelter which can even be used for birthday parties. You’ll need to pack a lunch since there is no food available for sale. If you picnic, fishing, walk around the lake, hike and explore the main building and wildlife area, you can definitely spend the majority of your day at Salato. I recommend going on a day with good weather so you can take full advantage of all of the outdoor areas.
The best thing about Salato are the learning programs, which are always different and unique. Check their events calendar for details of upcoming programs. I recommend signing up for their emails so you can plan to be at Salato during the time to see them. There are always living things to see, touch, and learn about from the rangers. Special programs are usually crowded, so be ready to wait in a slow moving line. Everyone always gets to see the animals and ask questions, so just be patient.
A few things to remember for your visit:
- Wear good walking shoes and play clothes.
- Wear sun block and a hat.
- Bring snacks and/or lunch- there’s no food to buy, but there are a lot of picnic tables!
- Bring your license and some bait – you can exchange the license for fishing poles for your kids (kids under 15 don’t need a license).
- Admission is $3 for kids ages 5-18 and $5 for adults (2018)
With the exception of state holidays, Salato Wildlife Education Center is open Tuesday – Friday 9am – 5pm and Saturday 10am – 5pm. It typically closes for the winter around Thanksgiving and reopens at the beginning of March.
By Guest Contributor: Caryn