SalamanderHighlands Nature Center was founded as the museum of the Highlands Biological Station in 1927, and was originally housed as an annex to the Hudson Library. Its present home, the Clark Foreman Museum building, was constructed between 1939 and 1941 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) using native granite from the local quarry and wormy chestnut salvaged from the Nantahala National Forest. Following a renovation in 2001, the Nature Center now offers exhibits and year-round educational programming focusing on the biodiversity of the southern Appalachian region. Programming includes pre-K-12 outreach, special events and daily activities during the summer that are open to the general public, as well as summer nature camps for ages 4 to 14. Younger campers explore the outdoors and learn about plants and animals through a variety of activities and games. Older campers conduct scientific research, develop team-building skills, and observe nature on adventure field trips into the Nantahala National Forest.    


Highlands Nature Center is a member of NC Grassroots Science Museums Collaborative.

 current hours of operation:

The Nature Center is closed for the season, but will open on Saturday, April 22nd.

Botanical Garden Trails are open every day until sunset.

address and phone number:

930 Horse Cove Road / PO Box 580, Highlands, NC 28741

(828) 526-2623 

Below you will find the schedule for our daily programming and special events.  For information about school outreach programming and special events, please visit the link below in the “links” section.

2017 Schedule of Special Events

First Saturdays Citizen Science

January-April, 1st Saturdays of each month

All ages | 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. | Cost: FREE

Come out and visit the Nature Center each 1st Saturday of the month through the off-season. Each month visitors can participate in a national citizen science project, Project FeederWatch, and help collect data on winter bird populations in Highlands. Basic bird identification skills will also be addressed. The Nature Center will be open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on each 1st Saturday and bird watching will begin at 10:30 a.m.

Film Forays at the Nature Center

January-March, 2nd Thursdays of each month

6:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

Bundle up and head to the Nature Center for a winter film series. Watch recent and relevant nature and conservation films while sipping hot cocoa or tea with neighbors. Bring your own mug or buy a Highlands Biological Station mug out of the gift shop. The films this year are as follows:

January 12           Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time

Meet at the Highlands Nature Center (930 Horse Cove Road, Highlands, NC 28741)

The first full-length documentary film ever made about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.

February 9            The Magical Forest

In a nutshell, this documentary answers why the lynx needs a caterpillar, why trees need fish, and why truffle fungus needs the flying squirrel. Connections like these form the planet’s great ecosystems and they’re vital for all life. The host, Chris Packham, wants to show you our world as you’ve never seen it before.

March 9                 Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony

Entomologist Dr. George McGavin and leafcutter expert Professor Adam Hart will embark on an ambitious project–something that’s never been tried before. They will show us a hidden world. It has taken six months from planning to the final project. They’ve built a new home for one million of nature’s most extraordinary creatures–ants. They fascinate us, they build complex, organized societies and we’ve always drawn parallels between their world and ours.

Regular Programs

April 22  Earth Day Festivities

11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

Celebrate our planet and learn what you can do to conserve its resources! Interact with local conservation organizations, learn more about our native wildlife, and participate in animal feeding programs.

May 26  Salamander Meander

9-10 p.m. | Ages 6-Adult | Cost: $5

Join herpetologists on a night search to observe some of the area’s salamanders in the wild. Registration is required. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight!

June 10  World Oceans Day

11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

The ocean is integral to all life on Earth and no matter where we live, we all have an impact on our ocean. Celebrate the ocean and the link we share with it, from the Mountains to the Sea. Find out more about how the ocean affects us and what we can do to protect it!

June 13  Birds of the World

7:00 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

In collaboration with the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. Come for a presentation by the Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) featuring live raptors. Afterwards, join members of Audubon to look for birds of prey as we prowl in nearby areas. Contributions to CRC are greatly appreciated.

June 22  Feelin’ Froggy!

8:30-9:30 p.m. | Ages: 6-Adult | Cost: $3

Learn about the different frogs that call Highlands their home. A short presentation will help us learn how to identify them by sight and then we will travel outside to listen for their calls. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

June 29  Nocturnal Nature

9:00 – 10:00 p.m. | Ages: 6-Adult | Cost: $3

Nocturnal have some pretty amazing adaptations to help them survive. Come out to Highlands Biological Station to learn about some of our nocturnal residents as we walk through the Botanical Garden. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

July 1  Red, White, and Blue-tiful!

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

Celebrate America the Beautiful by exploring the region’s magnificent flora and fauna. Investigate which species sport “stars” and stripes or are red, white, and blue in color. Figure out why such marks and colors are beneficial and try your hand at creating your own flag to support wildlife! 

July 5  Salamander Meander: Take 2

9-10 p.m. | Ages 6-Adult | Cost: $5

Join herpetologists on a night search to observe some of the area’s salamanders in the wild. Registration is required. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight!

July 25  Going Batty

8:00 – 9:30 p.m. | Ages: 6-Adult | Cost: $3

Highlands is home to several species of bats. These marvelous mammals are very important in our environment. Join us for a short presentation on bats before we head outside to observe them in their natural habitat. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight.

August 8  Myths and Mysteries of the Night Sky

9:00 – 10:30 p.m. | Ages: 6-Adult | Cost: $3

Ancient people looked to the night sky for navigation and explanation. Learn the most common summer constellations and the myths that surround them. Advanced registration is required as space is limited. Please bring a flashlight. Note that this program is weather dependent.

September 23  GO: Get Outside!

11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: FREE

Come out to Highlands Biological Station to kick off Take a Child Outside Week. The Nature Center will be open and offering nature-based activities and programs throughout the day. This is the perfect opportunity to get the whole family out and exploring in the wild!

October 26  Halloween Enchanted Forest

6:00-7:30 p.m. | All Ages | Cost: $1.00/person

Celebrate Halloween the natural way! Guided tours of our Botanical Gardens will lead you trick-or-treating around the trail to meet some native animal characters. Beware the forest in the last half hour as it will turn from enchanted to haunted and the animals will definitely be more “trick” than “treat”. Activities will be available in the nature center as well during this time.


What to do if you find an orphaned animal

school outreach 


summer camps

biodiversity in the southern Appalachians

nature notes

species lists:  mammals     |     amphibians     |     reptiles     |     birds