Get a kid's-eye view of Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center
Kid reporter Kai Robertson Meyer and four friends explore the pond at Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center in Corpus Christi. Designed as a treehouse, the Oso Bay Wetlands playground attracts kids of all ages, especially those who love to play extreme tag. A high-tech digital camera and kinetic sand teach the wonders of erosion and topography at the Oso Bay Wetlands learning center.
A 162-acre nature preserve in the city, the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center is so new that when you look it up on Google Maps, all you see are photos of a sign and a dirt field with some construction equipment on it. My mom had a hard time finding it the first time we went because there aren’t any signs leading to it. My dad found it by accident the second time we went.
When you go (and you should go!) tell your parents this: It’s on the Southside of Corpus Christi at 2446 N. Oso Parkway. Take Rodd Field Road and turn southeast on Wooldridge Road and keep going until it dead ends.
I’ve been there twice now; the first time for a Guided Nature Walk where I learned about red ants. The elder ants explore the area and choose where they’re going to harvest, and the younger ones come out and harvest at that location. They prefer flat, open areas. If they can’t find one, they make one by chopping down the grass with their teeth. The center holds guided tours twice a week on different topics.
On my next visit, I took five of my homeschooling friends. It was on a weekday, so we pretty much had the park to ourselves.
Inside the center, an employee greeted us and let us play with the kinetic sand, which will soon be hooked up to a very high-tech camera that is an Xbox 360 Connect. Once that’s done, you can create rain with the lifting of your hand. As it falls on the mountains and valley you created with the sand, you’ll see how water flows over the landscape. It teaches about topography and watersheds.
At the center’s Trading Post, you can trade in items from nature that you find at home for some of the things found at the park. For example, you could trade a molted June bug shell for a shed rattlesnake skin.
Outside the center is a giant pond with a small island in the middle. You can’t get to the island, but you can jump across concrete stepping stones across the corner of the pond. When we were playing on these, we noticed some clear frog eggs with tadpoles in the center clustered around pond grass. They were about the size of BBs. Manny, the guy who works there, came over and told us they were probably bullfrog eggs.
Next, we hit the trails, which wind through a forest of young mesquite trees and other native plants. We saw lots of wildflowers — bluebonnets, Indian blankets, yellow prickly pear flowers and brushland lantana. We could hear birds, but they were hard to see through the trees. You can bring your own binoculars for bird-watching or check out some from the main building.
Once we got to the overlook at the end of the trail, we looked out onto the bay and saw some shorebirds such as pink roseate spoonbills and a couple of turkey vultures circling the sky. On the way back, we saw a snake slither across the trail and go into the brush.
Unlike a zoo, the animals in this park are wild, not caged. We saw rabbits and some coyote scat. I like that the only way you can tell somebody’s been here before you is the trail. I like to think of it as a game trail, made by animals instead of humans.
The playground is my favorite part of the park. The main structure is like a large birdhouse up in a tree. You get up and down a variety of ways, either on a spiral slide, a rope ladder, steps on a tree trunk, a fireman’s pole, a small rubber ladder or a really cool tree slide. There’s also a walkway with a rope web for climbing down.
If you take the walkway across, it leads to two slides on a hill. I like how they made the roof of the playground structure flat so you can climb up onto it. It’s really good for playing tag.
Here’s what some of my friends said about the park.
Ryder: “It’s a really cool place, especially that you can walk by yourself on the trails and see all sorts of different wildlife. They need a bigger expansion of sites, higher sites where you can see stuff and more little spots to sit and relax. And maybe a telescope place.”
Corbin: “It has lots of trees, which I like to climb, and the trails are like a maze. I think they should put signs up of how to get back to the main area because today it was really hard to get back.”
Landon: “I like the pond, but I wish you could walk all the way across it on the stepping stones to that island instead of just across one corner. And it would be nice to have a little picnic area with tables. I think they should have a rock wall where you can climb up really high and see everything.”
Learn more on the Oso Wetlands’ website. The Learning Center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Walking trails and the playground are open daily, dawn to dusk. The Trading Post is open 3-4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. “Like” the Oso Wetland’s Facebook page to keep up with all the different programs offered at the park.
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