Highlights from 2019, a great way to begin a new decade 6
Discovery Pond at Tacoma Nature Center
Tacoma Nature Center 5

Join us for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Learn what you can do to keep this amazing planet healthy.

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NEW leadership opportunity for youth ages 13-18

TNC Youth Council is a dedicated space for youth voice.

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Nurture in Nature Preschool

Open Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year begins in January!

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Tacoma Nature Center

1919 South Tyler Street
Tacoma, WA 98405

(253) 404-3930

This facility is temporarily closed
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The Tacoma Nature Center is a 71-acre nature preserve encompassing Snake Lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest.

Upcoming Events

Additional Information


  • Parking: There is designated ADA parking on site. Passenger drop off is allowed at the base of the entry ramp.
  • Entrance: Main Entrance is the accessible entrance. There is a ramp with handrails to the main entry; slope is 5-8%. External doors are not automated and may require some assistance.
  • Route: There is a 36″ + wide accessible route through the internal exhibits and displays. There is an elevator to the lower level classrooms. Route to all classrooms, auditorium and entry ways are maintained for safety and access.
  • Assistance: Most information, exhibit signage and customer materials are within the 15-48″ reach range. Staff is available to provide assistance with out of reach items, particularly in the gift shop.
  • Restrooms: On-site restrooms on the main (upper) level are accessible.
  • Viewing: The exhibit hall provides good viewing of displays and views of the natural reserve behind the center. Most internal exhibits are on display for touch and sound interaction.
  • Outdoor Sensory Experience: Persons with plant allergies or sensitivity should consider the season when planning a visit. Outdoor trails have native plant species which may be irritating if they come in contact with the skin.
  • Trails: There are trails of varying surface, slope and difficulty on the site. Routes that are accessible for wheelchair users are listed on the trail map.
  • Renters: Persons who rent the auditorium receive an overview of the facility’s accessibility limitations upon request.

Conduct in Our Park & Nature Center

  • Smoking is prohibited
  • No pets or bicycles allowed on trails or in the Discovery Pond play area The Tacoma Nature Center is designateda preserve, which protects all species of plants and wildlife.We do not allow collection of plants, picking of berries, bicycles or domesticanimals to keep the natural area as natural as possible.The primary goal of the preserve is to provide good wildlife habitat for local animals. A secondary goal is to allow for people to enjoy this beautiful preserve. Fortunately, both goals can be compatible with a few simple rules. Please help us by following them.No matter how small and well behaved a dog is, they exude the scent of predators. This scent lasts for days and often affects the behavior of the wildlife. It could cause them to stay hidden when they should be out searching for food. This means their survival is in jeopardy and they are also not visible for people to enjoy.Bicycles on the trails can be dangerous for families with small children. Also, bicycles cause more erosion than foot traffic and light strollers. Erosion degrades the habitat quickly. For the same reason, we encourage visitors to stay on the trails to minimize the areas that are compacted and eroded by foot traffic.
  • Read more about conduct in Tacoma’s Parks


From humble beginnings comes one of Tacoma’s greatest treasures.

Long before Snake Lake and the surrounding area were set aside as a nature preserve, Native American tribes used the abundant resources of the wetland. The Snake Lake area was traditional tribal land used as a resource for berries, bulbs and tender shoots. The reeds were used for mats inside of dwellings as wall and floor coverings and on the outside as protective covering.

As the City of Tacoma grew, so did the number of people visiting Snake Lake. In 1890, the Tacoma-Lake City Railway was put in place on the east side of Snake Lake. The railway was constructed as a pleasure train, taking passengers from the hill above Old Town (26th Street) to a resort on American Lake. The railway closed after just seven years of operation, but the flat, even grade is still evident on the forested side of the lake.

Snake Lake soon became a popular recreation area. Many people ice-skated on its frozen waters in the winter. One tragic day in 1908, two boys died after falling through the ice. Twenty years later, Snake Lake and the surrounding area became part of the Metropolitan Parks District, a gift of R. A. Booth and others.

In the early 1970s William Glundberg, director of Metro Parks Tacoma, recognized the potential for a nature center on the site. Countless people and organizations, including Tahoma Audubon Society’s Helen Engle, Bob Ramsey and Thelma Gilmur, fought long and hard to preserve the land and promote nature education. Citizens began to discover the wonderful resource in their own backyards.

When plans to construct State Route 16 right over the lake were revealed, concerned citizens and officials realized building on top of a wetland would create drainage problems. The road was designed to bridge Snake Lake instead. In 1972 the bridge over the south end of the lake was completed.

The park was dedicated in 1979 with an advisory board in place. Portable buildings arrived in 1981, and tours began for school and community groups as well as summer day camp programs.

Ten years later, the current interpretive center was completed with money from the 1986 “Parks for People” bond issue. School and group tours, outreach programs, community programs and special events all grew to meet the needs of an ever-growing and changing population. As the need for conservation grew, so did the response of The Tacoma Nature Center staff and volunteers. We will continue to work to increase understanding and appreciation of the natural world, a haven in the middle of the city.


Tacoma Nature Center Building and ADA Improvements

The scope of work includes ADA upgrades and improvements to the entry ramp, and entry door; relocation of a utility pole at Discovery Pond; replacement of exterior wooden stair treads; and utility routing to Coyote Flats.

There will also be minor site and signage upgrades on the TNC property and a Facility Assessment to the main building. Dependent upon the result of the facility assessment, the scope of work may shift to address needs at the main building.

Status: Building assessment and preliminary design documents are being prepared to improve and upgrade a failing exterior envelope (roof, windows, siding, doors, and exterior landings) of the main TNC building.


feather quill pen
Art & Artifacts
Bike Rack
Drinking Fountain
Environmental Education
Gift Shop
fork and knife
speech bubbles
Meeting Space
Natural Areas
Parking Stalls
Parking Stalls / ADA
Party Room
picnic shelter
Picnic Shelter - Drop-in
Restrooms / Year Round
Trail / Hard
Trail / Soft
More Features (10)