clock 10 am – 5 pm
View of wetland area with boardwalk and trees
Explore | Exhibit

Explore the Wild: Wetland

Once a gravel quarry, this forest habitat is now full of living things to discover.

The Explore the Wild trail circles a wetland basin, formed in the flooded pit of a City of Durham gravel quarry. People cut down forest and dug up the earth here, but animals and plants have found new ways to make it home. Today, this habitat is both natural and man-made. It’s shared by wild creatures, human visitors, and the bears, wolves, and lemurs that live in human care.

A group of visitors views the wetland over the edge of a boardwalk deck.


Wander through the trees as the ground drops away below you. Look out over the wetland from a tall boardwalk overlook and a low wetland deck.
A view of the wetland from a floating walkway deck.

Floating Walkway

Feel the water under your feet as you move along this floating path. Look at the wetland banks from a new perspective. Surround yourself with native grasses and the tiny creatures that call them home.
A senior adult talks to a child in adirondack chairs at the water's edge.

Water's Edge

Take a cool, shady trip through the bottomland forest on the north edge of campus. Pause for a moment at a relaxing patio on the Water’s Edge.

The Wetland is full of life

The wetland is always changing! As you wander, search for living things in the woods, water, and air. Stop for a moment and use all your senses. Can you notice bird calls? Buzzing insects? Singing frogs or toads? What flowers, fruits, or seed pods are growing on the plants around you?

If you spot a Museum Ranger, ask them what’s new in the wetland today. They’re always on the lookout for interesting things to share. And please be kind to any bugs, bees, or snakes you may see – they belong in this habitat, too.

A female lifts a small child up to a viewscope to examine the water below them.

Wild Animals in the City

The Museum is only a few blocks from downtown Durham, but our wetland feels like a world apart. The north side of our campus is part of Ellerbe Creek’s wildlife corridor, a chain of small wild places that help living things move through the city.

This wetland hosts a mix of native, non-native, and invasive species. It’s especially rich in birds and insects. Raccoons, possums, and minks visit overnight when the Museum is closed. Look for muddy footprints on the paths where animals have walked by.

A closeup of a bull frog in the museum wetland.