Located just off of Highway 18 at S14W28099 Madison Street in Waukesha Wisconsin, Retzer Nature Center provides a number of hiking trails, informative displays and an impressive planetarium. It is an ideal destination for any family, couple or individual looking to spend some time outdoors.
The Nature Center itself was recently remodeled and updated with a new planetarium. It is one of the better planetariums nearby, offering several shows for kids and adults alike.
Just across from the planetarium, there is also a quaint gift shop and information desk near the planetarium. The shop sells some basic souvenirs, including books, walking sticks, and knick knacks.
Venturing further inside the center, a series of educational displays teaches visitors about the park itself and Wisconsin’s natural wonder. There are sample bones, leaves, and taxidermied animals with informational placards. Furthermore, there are live specimens for visitors to look at and learn about. The center has a fish tank with several specimens native to Wisconsin, and there are several smaller cages with other local animals.
Outside of the center, Retzer offers several hiking trails. The trails closer to the center are paved and easily accessible for parents with strollers. The view on these trails is not as impressive, featuring mostly pine trees and some shrubbery. Further from the center, rustic trails extend into the woods, winding past small streams, trees, wildflowers, and lush grasses. The trails feature moderate inclines, making them ideal for most average hikers-not too difficult, not too flat and easy. Furthermore, several benches are placed along major trails for easy resting points.
Bridges and wooden walkways lead further into a nearby marshland where you’ll be most likely to spot wildlife. There is a modest observation deck at the far end of the marsh for easy gazing out into the surrounding beauty.
While the marsh is full of life, some other trails are not as impressively teeming with wildlife-though greenery is abundant. This detractor is partially because of Retzer’s other major detractor: nearby construction and suburban development. Unfortunately for park-goers, some of the trails run close to nearby roadways, farm fields, and even houses. From the top of a large hill on the trails, buildings dot the landscape, slightly dampening the natural aesthetic of the otherwise pristine oasis.
However, at the right time of year, these manmade intrusions are easily overlooked as flowers bloom across the hilltop and butterflies surround the area for an impressive, colorful scene.
All things considered, Retzer is, overall, a wonderful park with many great trails and a nice informational center. The site has many natural attractions for anybody who loves the outdoors. While it is not as secluded or vast as larger state or national parks, this Waukesha County park is free to the public and is truly a hidden gem.