Macon County Conservation District Explore the Outdoors
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Rock Springs Conservation Area & Nature Center

Rock Springs Conservation Area and Nature Center are located at 3939 Nearing Lane in Decatur, IL
[get directions].
Rock Springs GPS Coordinates are 39.817713 N, 89.00932 W

Rock Springs Nature Center is located on the southwestern edge of Decatur. To get to Rock Springs Center from Decatur go south on Route 48 and turn right onto Rock Springs Road. Watch for signs. Plenty of parking is available.

The Ecocenter

The Ecocenter is a fascinating and fun museum located in the Rock Springs Nature Center. The museum exhibits are designed to teach young and old about the natural history of Macon County. You'll hear the sounds of native wildlife and learn how animals cope with surviving in an ever-changing environment.

The nature center at Rock Springs provides hands-on learning for the whole family. Classes, demonstrations, and workshops are scheduled throughout the year.

Rock Springs Nature Center Hours

Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Business Office Hours

Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


See Live Animals

Check out our aquariums filled with native fish and amphibians from Illinois' streams, lakes and rivers. Here are just some of the animals on display in the nature center:

  • Largemouth Bass
  • Yellow-bellied Catfish
  • Soft Shelled Turtle
  • Grey Treefrog
  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Leopard Frog
  • Tiger Salamander
  • Eastern Box Turtle
  • Prairie King Snake
  • Black Rat Snake
  • Smooth Softshell Turtle
  • Snapping Turtle

Want to sponsor the nature center animals?

A unique way to support environmental education at Rock Springs Nature Center is to become an Animal Care Partner. You'll learn more about your flying, swimming, crawling or slithering creature from special materials we send. We encourage you to visit your animal at the nature center to see the rewards of your efforts.

To support an animal for one year, select your favorite and send in your donation. Animal care includes food, supplies, cleaning of the aquarium, and medical care. We'll send you a certificate, information about your animal and an invitation to a Wildlife Partners event. We hope you will join the growing group of people who are supporting our animals.

Download the brochure and donation form here.

Amphibians - $15 per year
- American Toad
- Grey Tree Frog
- Northern Leopard Frog
- Tiger Salamander

Turtles - $20 per year
- Eastern Box Turtle
- Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle
- Painted Turtle
- Red-eared Slider
- Smooth Softshell Turtle

Fishes - $25 per year
- Bluegill
- Channel Catfish

Snakes - $25 per year
- Black Ratsnake
- Prairie Kingsnake

Birds - $50 per year
The "Window on Wildlife" at Rock Springs Nature Center offers a view of the woods and overlooks the bird feeding area. From this vantage point, you can observe the birds that live at Rock Springs Nature Center year-round as well as those that stop in during the spring and fall migration.

Group Animal Care Partners

A Group Animal Care Partnership is an opportunity for your school, organization or youth group to support the nature center's animals.

Download the brochure and donation form here.

For a donation of $50 your group will receive:

  • Wildlife Partners Certificate
  • Educational materials and curriculum folder

For a donation of $100 your group will receive:

  • Wildlife Partners Certificate
  • Educational materials and curriculum folder
  • Use of a Museum in a Box curriculum kit

For a donation of $250 your group will receive:

  • Wildlife Partners Certificate
  • Educational materials and curriculum folder
  • Use of a Museum in a Box curriculum kit
  • Wildlife Partner Bookmarks (up to 40)
  • Naturalist presentation at your school or business


Window on Wildlife

Birdwatchers will enjoy the bird feeding stations in the woods outside the nature center, viewable from inside the nature center through spacious windows. Sit down at one of the benches and enjoy seasonal & migratory woodland birds of Illinois. Listen to their bird calls and activity through the amplified speakers.

The "Window on Wildlife" at Rock Springs Nature Center offers a view of the woods and overlooks the bird feeding area. From this vantage point, you can observe the birds that live at Rock Springs Nature Center year-round as well as those that stop in during the spring and fall migration.

You or your group or organization can sponsor the "Window on Wildlife" for just $50 a year! Download the brochure and donation form to become a Wildlife Partner.

Visit the Information Island at the center of the Nature Center to purchase a Field Guide to use at the "Window on Wildlife".

Some of the birds to look for at the "Window on Wildlife":

  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Ruby Throated Hummingbird
  • Housefinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Bobwhite
  • Cardinal
  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • American Goldfinch
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Common Flicker


The Bluestem Theater

Take a break in comfy chairs and enjoy nature and history movies all day long at the touch of a button. Movies are 3 to 20 minutes long.

We are currently featuring the following films:

"Exploring the Outdoors"
running time: 3 minutes 45 seconds

"Abraham Lincoln in Macon County "

"Biodiversity of Illinois "


North Wing Art Gallery, South Wing Art Gallery, & A.E. Staley Exhibit Hall

This art gallery showcases works of local artists in various media. Special events are featured year-round.

The North Wing Art Gallery is currently hosting:

March/April: Lance Merry - Photo Show
May/June: Alan Perry - Photo Show
July/August: Sue Watts - Art Show
September/October: Jim Poling
November/December: Barn Colony

The South Wing Art Gallery is currently hosting:

February/March: Macon County Conservation District Artwork
April/May: David Staff photographs

The A. E. Staley Exhibit Hall is currently hosting:

Earth from Space Exhibit will be displayed until March 4.


Charles Franklin Shilling Reference Library

The nature reference library, located in Rock Springs Nature Center, is open to the public. The library has environmental education, history, storytelling and children’s sections as well as a vertical file of nature information, a good selection of field guides and books on various nature topics. Most of these resources may be checked out.

Library Hours

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday: By Request ONLY

If you would like to access the library at other times, please inform the volunteer at the Information Island in the center of the Nature Center. They will contact a staff person to assist you.

How to Borrow Library Materials

  1. To checkout "any" book, video, etc., please do the following:
  2. You may borrow a maximum of 10 items at one time. All items are due back one month from today.
  3. Enter the date and your name on the card found in the card pocket of books, CDs, and videos. Books, CDs or videos without pocket cards may NOT be taken from the library.
  4. For material from the vertical file, write a note with your name, the date and a brief description of the material borrowed.
  5. Place the card or note on the desk.
  6. To borrow a pamphlet from the Nearing Room pamphlet collection, enter checkout information in the pamphlet log, located on the shelving with the pamphlet collection.


Prairie, Forest, River: The Natural Treasures of Macon County

Rock Springs is an educational outlet, thanks to the Prairie, Forest, River: The Natural Treasures of Macon County museum, an interactive museum that explores the world of plants and animals. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about native plants and animals of Macon County through seeing, feeling, crayon-rubbing, door-opening and button-pressing in the hands-on exhibits of this fun, interactive museum.

Digging into the Past: The evidence of pre-historic and historic Native Americans as well as Euro Americans is scattered throughout Macon County. Archaeologists, by carefully digging and examining artifacts and debris found in these sites, can make educated conclusions about the lifestyles of the people who once lived here.

Experience the Prairie: All things in nature are connected. Prairies help to clean the water that drains into forested areas and ultimately reaches the streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Wildlife makes a home in the sea of grass and flowers for food and shelter. Rabbits, deer, hawks, prairie king snakes and other species use the prairies and woodlands for shelter, foraging, and hunting.

Learn about the Woodland Forests: Forested areas include a wide variety of plants and animals. Oaks, hickories, and many species of shrubs and wildflowers filter pollutants from the air and provide food and shelter for the birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. With the aid of prairies and grasslands that control erosion, and the streams and rivers that provide drainage channels, a forest is critical to the success of many plants and animals.

Most of the forests in Macon County occur along the streams and rivers. Mature upland forests primarily contain oaks and hickories, but walnuts, maple, wild black cherry, and other trees are also found.

Wildflowers including trillium, bloodroot, spring beauties, and Dutchmen's breeches survive in the woodland. This diversity of plants provides habitat for wildlife and a great place for hiking, photography, birding, and nature study.

Explore the River: A river is a vital part of the ecosystem. The Sangamon River flows through both rural and urban settings in Macon County. The artery is vulnerable to the waste products that both humans and animals produce. There are many ways that we as humans can help the river system stay clean and help the other residents of this ecosystem. Come explore how we, as stewards of the environment, can give the river a hand!


Borrow or Rent Equipment for Fishing, Cross-Country Skiing, or a Nature Adventure!

Make your trip to Rock Springs Nature Center even more special by using our equipment for fishing or cross-country skiing. Borrow a themed Family Exploration Pack for free - just ask!

Fishing Equipment: Borrow fishing equipment for free from the Nature Center to fish in our ponds for catfish, bass, bluegill, and more! Just ask a volunteer at the Information Island in the center of the Nature Center.

Family Exploration Packs: Come to the Information Island to borrow a free Family Exploration Pack! For an up-close and personal nature experience, check out one of our new Family Exploration Packs at the Rock Spirngs Nature Center. These packs include nature guides, activity ideas, collecting tools, binoculars, a trail guide with the best spots circled and more, all for free! These packs were designed with both novice and experienced trekkers in mind. Themes include birds, bugs, pond-life, forest, prairie, spring/summer, fall, and winter. These packs are available for you to make your very own family adventure with! See below for examples of what our Family Exploration Packs include:

Our Winter Exploration Pack includes:

- Acorn Naturalist Binoculars 8x21
- In the Snow: Who's Been Here?
- Who Lives in the Snow?
- Seasons: Winter
- Tracking Animals in the Snow
- Eastern Winter Weeds Finder Guide
- Peterson Flash Guide: Birds, Midwest Region
- Nature All Year Long
- Wildflowers and Winter Weeds
- Backpack
Our Fall Exploration Pack includes:

- Acorn Naturalist Binoculars 8x21
- Seasons: Fall
- Fall Color Finder
- Little Golden Guide: Trees
- Little Golden Guide: Birds
- Little Golden Guide: Mammals
- A Northwoods Companion: Fall and Winter
- Nature All Year Long
- Messenger Bag


Cross-Country Ski Workshops

Saturday, January 12 & 26, 4 p.m. & Sunday, January 6 & 20, 10 a.m.

Learn the basics of cross-country skiing. Fee $12, includes skis, boots, poles and one hour of instruction ($4 with your own skis). At least 4 inches of snow and reservations required.

Cross-Country Skii Rental
$8.00 for 2 Hours of Rental Time
Includes skis, boots and poles. Two hour rentals must be only used at Rock Springs Conservation Area and may not be taken off-site.
$20.00 for 24 Hours of Rental Time
Includes skis, boots and poles. Twenty-four hour rentals may be taken off-site.
*Equipment available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We do not reserve equipment.

Rent Cross-Country Skiing Equipment: Rock Springs Center offers cross-country skiing for people ages 3 to 93. Maps are available for those unfamiliar with the designated trails. There are trails for both novice and experienced cross-country skiers. Workshops are held every weekend in January and February and require reservations. Contact us to arrange workshops for groups!

There is no need to go out and buy equipment; we provide rentals. You can rent skis, boots, and poles, which can be used both on and off our sites.

Four inches of snow is recommended for cross-country skiing. However, before heading out to Rock Springs Center, it is recommended that you call to make sure that the conditions are favorable for cross-country skiing.

If you have your own equipment, try cross-country skiing the bike trails through Fairview and Kiwanis Park. Skiing these trails offer an excellent opportunity to view nature during the winter months.

Rock Springs Center also schedules night walks on the trails in the conservation area during the winter months. Check the events schedule during the winter to find dates and times.


Special Events All Year Long

The Rock Springs Nature Center hosts a wide variety of events all year. Events include everything from live animal shows to nature and history talks. Check our events calendar on our website for dates and times of events.


Have Your Next Event at the Rock Springs Nature Center

The Rock Springs Nature Center has rooms of all sizes available for rent.

Rentals can include: set-up, coffee makers, audio-visual equipment, tables, chairs and use of kitchen facilities.

There are also exhibit halls, Bluestem Theater, an art gallery, and staff available to provide interesting and educational programs.

The rooms at Rock Springs Nature Center are perfect for:

  • Wedding Receptions
  • Class Reunions
  • Family Reunions
  • Business Meetings & Conferences
  • Birthday Parties
  • Retirement Parties
  • Anniversary Parties
  • Retreats
  • Seminars & Classes
  • Field Trips

28’ X 50’ room, carpeted, ADA accessible, round or rectangular tables, chairs, seats up to 100 people.
Fees: $125 full day $75 half day Set-up $50

Upper Level Conference Room
20’ X 24’ room, carpeted, ADA accessible, round or rectangular tables, chairs, seats up to 25.
Fees: $80 full day $40 half day Set-up $25

Orientation Room
20’ X 24’ room, carpeted, ADA accessible, round or rectangular tables, chairs, seats up to 25.
Fees: $80 full day $40 half day Set-up $25

Multipurpose Room
Seats 100
Fees: $125 for 4 hours. $200 for 5-9 hours. Set-up $60.


Birthday Parties

Let us help you provide a "naturally" fun adventure for your child's next birthday. Call 217-423-7708 to schedule your child's party.

Each party includes:

  • Use of a private room in the nature center for two hours
  • Room set-up and take-down
  • Pink lemonade and a cupcake for each child are provided for refreshment
  • Cups and napkins are provided
  • Time to explore the nature center’s exciting exhibits on your own
  • A 30-45 minute age appropriate education program relating to the theme of your choice

The available themes are:

  • Number of Participants
    Basic Party Package
    Up to 12
    Frogs Music
  • Discovering Dinosaurs
  • Reptilian Roundup
  • Butterflies
  • Totally Turtles
  • Amazing Mammals
  • Nature Bingo
  • Wild and Wonderful Wolves
  • Playtimes Past

If you have another theme in mind please ask. We might be able to accommodate you.

You can bring:

  • Extra snacks, birthday cake, and plates if you feel you need them.
  • You can also bring your own decorations.

Instead of gifts, considering an animal sponsorship for your child through the Animal Care Partner Program. For as little as $15 a year, you can sponsor some of the many animals in the Rock Springs Nature Center. It makes a unique gift for your child!



Today's Sunrise Sunset in Decatur, IL:
    Sunrise is at: 5:27 AM
    Sunset is at: 8:27 PM

What can you do at the Nature Center?

Visit Our Conservation Areas

Rock Springs Conservation Area
Friends Creek Conservation Area
Sand Creek Conservation Area
Griswold Conservation Area
Fort Daniel Conservation Area



The Macon County Conservation District invites you to visit the many natural areas in Macon County, Illinois, including Rock Springs Nature Center, which offers nature programs, special activities, nature hikes, summer camps, music programs, conference rooms for all ages throughout the year in Decatur, Illinois.
Macon County Conservation District
3939 Nearing Lane
Decatur, IL 62521
(217) 423-7708

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