Last year I got a text from my husband announcing he’d heard his first sign of spring – a big V of waterfowl heading north. It was January 31. That hasn’t happened this year. This year, we’re still in winter – but we’re dreaming of spring.
Technically, the spring equinox falls at 11:15 a.m. on March 20. But people anticipate the season well in advance of its arrival … long before the daylight gets longer, before the first crocus, daffodil, spring bird song, tree bud, plant emerging, woodcock peenting, or – in my own case – spring peeper call.
So while we’re anticipating, we may as well as start planning our Show-Me State spring rambles.
Mother Nature likes to be unpredictable this time of year, so if you’re one to hedge your bets, make your earliest spring plans to visit one (or more) of Missouri’s Conservation Nature Centers. Interpretive trails and nature trails are ideal for family walks if the weather is mild. If the weather turns a little raw on you, explore live exhibits where you can learn about wildlife and attend classes and workshops to expand your outdoor knowledge and skills. You’ll find the centers scattered throughout the state in Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Blue Springs, Kansas City, Kirkwood, Jefferson City and Winona.
Every day feels like spring to me when I visit the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield. It’s filled with spectacular greenery and flowers that provide a home to more than 1,000 tropical butterflies that fly freely in the conservatory. With a little luck, you may have a winged lovely land on your arm for a short visit, and see a young butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.
The Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House in Springfield specializes in the native species you’ll see on Missouri glades, prairies and woodlands a little later in the year. And in Branson’s Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, climb a coconut tree, visit the Rainforest Critter Center and marvel at the more than 1,000 live tropical butterflies.
Nothing speaks to the season of renewal quite like a garden, where both sights and scents fill the air with the richness of growing things emerging from the soil. Kansas City’s botanical garden, Powell Gardens in Kingsville, offers breathtaking display gardens and interesting architecture. The Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is the country’s oldest botanical gardens in continuous operation, and gives you the option of both indoor and outdoor garden experiences, in case the weather turns in the middle of your garden ramble.
One of the most spectacular flowers of spring is the iris, and Commanche Acres Iris and Water Gardens in Gower has 2,500 varieties to admire and purchase for your own little plot of land. It’s almost time to get some dirt under your fingernails.
As you might have expected from my excitement over migrating geese, spring birdsong, and woodcocks, birding is my very favorite spring activity. And a of last year, Missouri has something brand new to offer me and my fellow birders: the Great Missouri Birding Trail. Now is the time to get familiar with it, before the full spring migration begins and you’re too busy watching the sky to notice where you’re going.
And if just getting outside to enjoy the first soft, warm breezes of the season is what you’re after most, Missouri is blessed with amazing trails for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, dirt bikes and ATVs in its abundant state parks.