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Whittier Narrows Nature Center ~ South El Monte

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Whittier Narrows Nature Center ~ 1000 N. Durfee Ave. ~ South El Monte ~ (626) 575-5523

Friends of the Whittier Narrows Natural Area

The Whittier Narrows Nature Center is a 320 acre wildlife sanctuary located within the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a 1,400 acre riparian woodland. Four lakes and a riverside ecosystem are home to over 40 bird species. Actually, over 300 bird species have been identified in the Whittier Narrows area. Its lakes are popular with migrating water foul, as well as the occasional mountain lion or bobcat. In the Recreation Area open from sunrise to sunset, humans can enjoy sports like soccer, volleyball, archery, fishing, skeet, pistols, and horseback riding. Facilities rent boats and bikes. Now as far as outdoor education goes, nothing beats the outdoors- but the Nature Center goes a long way in explaining the complex relationships which sustain this marvelous ecosystem.

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The Whittier Narrows Natural Area was first designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1939. It is now managed by the L.A. County Dept. of Parks & Recreation Natural Areas Division, whose mission is to preserve, protect, and educate. Among other activities, the Nature Center hosts bird walks, hay rides, lectures, and school tours. The environ around the museum building is tranquil and unimposing. One would never guess what wonders lurk inside.

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If you are a big fan of natural history museums or an aspiring taxidermist, you will love this place. Upper left we see the grey fox, close relative to our native island fox, who famously inhabits the Channel Islands and is known to be the world's smallest fox. Also on display are live toads, a tarantula, lizards, snakes, and even a racoon. This room is overflowing with curiosities- some dead, some living.

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Below, check out the collection of bird nests found around the nature center. Pictures in a book don't compare to these miniatures of chaotic, creative construction.

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Page through these volumes that identify every bird ever spotted in the Whittier Narrows Natural Area.

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The wonders of geology, often unseen and unknown, reveal colorful and cosmic forms.

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Gopher snakes imitate rattle snakes.

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Now that we've visited our captive reptilian relatives behind glass, let's get out and see where they come from- Nature.

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This mural is titled Life Between Two Rivers, referring to the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel. These two rivers form a geographic outline of an ambitious parks project called the "Emerald Necklace".
The Emerald Necklace is a vision for a 17 mile loop or parks and greenways connecting 10 cities and nearly 500,000 residents along the Río Hondo and San Gabriel Rivers.

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Outdoor educational displays like the wheel of life, above, and the Tongva hut, below, are effective tools for teaching children about Nature. They also reflect on a current controversy between two factions closely associated with the Nature Center: Friends of the Whittier Narrows Natural Area, and the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority. We encourage you to read these websites, visit the Nature Center, and consider for yourself what impact "the Authority" will have on this sanctuary located within a highly developed industrial, agricultural, and residential area of San Gabriel Valley.

Taco, however, is generally opposed to authority, and "the Authority", in particular. We believe the scope of the proposed Discovery Center is over blown, over budget, and simply antithetical to the L.A County Dept. of Parks & Recreation Natural Areas Division's mission to preserve and protect this habitat. We don't want an indoor education- we want to go to the source. We don't want to read corporate sponsored, apologist museum displays about irrigation and water resources; we want to stand at the riverside and hear the birds' song.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." - Edward Abbey

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Night Heron and Mallards.

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"Hey, what about me!"

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