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City Listings

City Listing Category
Military Owned Business Location

Geographical Address

Duty Station(s)
Public Address
Tacoma Nature Center Interpretive Center, 1919, South Tyler Street, Central Tacoma, Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, 98405, United States
Postal Code

Contact Info


Business Info

Operating Hours
  • Mon 10:00 am - 2:00 pm Closed now
  • Tue 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • Wed 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • Thu 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • Fri 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • Sat 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  • Sun 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

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 resources 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.

About the Trail

ore than two miles of soft-surfaced walking trails wander through the wetlands and forest areas. There is also a half-mile outdoor access route for wheelchairs.

Trails are open daily from 8 am to 30 minutes after sunset

  • General admission is free for the preserve
  • Since this is an urban nature preserve, we ask you to leave pets and bicycles at home while visiting
  • Smoking is prohibited

For the health of our ducks and geese, we ask you to refrain from feeding them.

Discovery Pond is a natural play area for children designed to inspire creative play and environmental learning.

Where adventure and learning happen naturally . . .

Discovery Pond is a natural play area for children designed to inspire creative play and environmental learning.

It has unconventional play features like a tree house, boulder scramble, slide inside a hollow log, snag climb, pond with waterfalls and logs crossing, walking trails, and rain gardens.

Hours Open daily from 9:30 am to 30 minutes after sunset, except when reserved by a group or party

Admission Admission is free.

Interpretive Center

The interpretive center offers informative displays with plenty for kids to see and do. Check out the interactive wetland, watershed, and wildlife exhibits featuring small animals like toads and turtles.

  • Center hours: Monday-Friday, 10 am-2 pm Beginning April 25 the Nature Center will be open daily 10 am-2 pm
  • Conference/meeting room available for rent
  • General admission is free for the building

Gift Shop

Choose from an array of affordable items that will make your visit even more memorable.

You’ll find high-quality creations in the gift shop, perfect for any budget. Browse through unique gifts including:

  • Nature-themed books, toys, jewelry, art, and gift items.
  • Nature exploration tools

Please note that we comply with the City of Tacoma’s plastic bag ban. Recycled paper bags are available to purchase if you do not bring your own bag.


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