Since its opening in July, 1969, the Squam Lake Natural Science Center of New Hampshire has followed its goal to educate the general public about New Hampshire's natural world. The Natural Science Center grew out of the desire of local residents to preserve the area's natural assets. In 1965, they gathered to discuss plans and raise money to help preserve nature. By 1966, the group had raised enough money to purchase 180 acres and incorporate as a non-profit organization. In the two years that followed, the board of directors was formed, and the original mission statement was written. That mission statement included the education of children in the natural sciences and to become a natural sciences education center.
When the Squam Lake Natural Science Center opened in 1969, it consisted of a barn auditorium, two nature trails with live animal exhibits and three exhibits showing the daily life of early New Hampshire settlers. The Science Center began its pilot school education program in September of 1969, holding sessions in the basement of the director's home. The kitchen of the Holderness Inn, purchased with the original property, was converted to house the animals used for lectures - a total of 20 birds, 13 mammals and 25 reptiles.
In the years since, the Natural Science Center has continued to expand and grow even as it refined its mission statement and its mission. In 2006, the Center gained accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, recognizing its excellence in the field of natural science conservation and education. It is the only AZA accredited facility in Northern New England.
Squam Lake offers 15 animal exhibits and three nature trails. Many of the exhibits are in the natural environment, while others are learning centers that bring education indoors. They include the Introductory Exhibit, which introduces visitors to the main concepts behind conservation, and the popular Gordon Children's Activity Center, where children can get a more hands-on understanding of natural concepts. The Activity Center includes an underground tunnel, a crawling web and other activities for children.
The Raptor Exhibit is another popular exhibit. Spread out over several buildings, it focuses only on birds that are raptors - owls, falcons, kestrel, and hawks. Beyond the buildings, nature trails take visitors into the marshes and woods to explore the natural world and see plants and animals native to this area of New England. The Marsh Boardwalk, a popular place to walk at this location, is a wooden walkway over a man made wetland into the woods and marsh. Three hiking trails range in length from 1/3 of a mile to over 1 mile, and take hikers through fields, forest, and mountains.
Squam Lake Natural Science Center is open daily from May through November 1 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, though some parts of the facility may not always be open, depending on the weather. Admission is $13 for adults, $9 for children. Discount rates are available for groups and special events. For more information about hours and admissions contact the Science Center at 603-968-7194.