Looking to See Wildlife? Check Out the MacKenzie Environmental Center


Each fall, my wife, my daughter and I make a trip to Poynette, WI to see animals. We aren’t going to a zoo. Instead, we visit the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center.

If you want to see exotic animals like lions and elephants, the MacKenzie Center isn’t going to be the place for you. All they specialize in are animals native to Wisconsin. But, if you want a place to go to get your kids plenty of fresh air and exercise while looking at animals you might not normally see, the center is the place to visit. And, more importantly, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg since there’s no admission price, just a suggested donation of $1 per person.

There are two things I like about the MacKenzie Center. First, unlike zoos, they haven’t gone commercial. You are able to view the animals without the distraction of ice cream and hot dog vendors and gift shops. The center is set in the middle of the country about a mile outside of Poynette and most of the trails are carved out of a wooded area. So, not only will you see the animals they have on display, you might see additional wildlife too. The last time we visited, for example, we had to stop and wait for a grass snake to cross the trail.

This is really nice because it’s a good outdoor setting for a picnic lunch and is very relaxing.

I also like the fact you don’t have a huge crowd there. The last couple times we visited, there were maybe five other people there too. In fact, the only time you have a lot of people there is if you happen to go at the same time some school is having a field trip.

The displays themselves are pretty neat. The MacKenzie Center goes out of its way to make sure the animals are comfortable. The wolves have plenty of room to run around. The deer have plenty of hiding spots and the bob cats have plenty of places to climb.

You’re also able to get pretty close to the animals. They have barricades up but they are close enough where you can get a good view of the animals while still keeping you out of arms reach of them. In fact, when we were taking a break by the mountain lions, we could hear every breath they took.

If you’re driving near Poynette, Wisconsin with your kids, this is a place you should visit.