Riverbend Environmental Education Center
GOOD FOR: Ages 5-8

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:1950 Spring Mill Road, Gladwyne, PA
Hours:Grounds open dawn to dusk daily; visitor center open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (call ahead for weekend hours)
Fee: Free

riverbendeec.org, 610-527-5234

Bathrooms: In main building
Water/Snacks: Water fountain in main building

riverbendeec.org/about (click on Maps & Directions)

Trails ideal for young children wind through this hillside nature center.

Riverbend Environmental Education Center
Photo by: Susan Charkes

Design specifically to introduce children to nature, the Riverbend Environmental Education Center is perfect for young families to get acquainted with woods, streams, fields, and ponds in a hillside spot above a curve in the Schuylkill River in Lower Merion Township. Its compact 30 acres harbor a rich variety of wildlife.

The interconnected, natural-surface trails of dirt or mowed grass are easy to follow. Because of Riverbend’s hillside location, you can’t avoid going upor downhill, but even the steepest trails are easily navigable by kids (proper footwear is a must, however). Sassafras Trail climbs from the visitor center through a small grove of trees; at the top it links to Bluebird Trail, which heads through the fields. Jack-in-the-Pulpit Trail follows switchbacks down to a rocky stream and along an old road (which used to go down to the river, before I-76 was built). For families looking for lengthier hikes, the trails connect to other paths, including Sid Thayer Trail, which offers outstanding views of the river when the leaves are off the trees.

Some of the structures at Riverbend date from the era when mills thrived along Lower Merion’s numerous swift streams. The visitor center, remarkably, is a 1923 Sears catalog barn, which has been renovated and now houses exhibits including live toads, turtles, and other small animals.

In an even earlier era, the native Lenape tribe had a long presence here as well. Informational signs about the history and nature of the land are placed throughout the site.

Remember: Riverbend conducts year-round nature programs for families and a summer camp. Check the website for details. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed.

Plan B:

Rolling Hill Park is nearby, with hiking trails, as is Valley Forge National Historical Park, with more extensive trails, plus biking and fishing.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Gladwyne center (east on PA 23) has a small commercial area.


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