Holiday Building Hours

The trails at Riveredge will continue to be open from dawn to dusk every day.

Please use the self check-in envelopes on the front door of the nature center to provide your trail fees if you are a non-member.  Trail fees are used to help continue the upkeep of the trails and land for your enjoyment and continued high quality wildlife habitat.

To allow our staff time with their families and friends during the holidays, the building hours will be adjusted on the following days:

  • Friday, December 23: 9 am – 4 pm (Come get your last minute Christmas presents from the Nature Store!)
  • Saturday, December 24 & Sunday, December 25: Building CLOSED
  • Monday, December 26: 9 am – 4 pm
  • Friday, December 30: 8 am – 12 noon
  • Saturday, December 31 – Monday, January 2: Building CLOSED

Year-end gifts:

You may make a year-end gift by calling Riveredge during building hours (262-375-2715) or at any time through our secure website.  Donate today; bring the great outdoors to families, schools & communities!

Happy Holidays from all of us @ Riveredge!

Return the sturgeon!

There’s really nothing else quite like Sturgeon Fest. In a time when we are bombarded with dire reports about the environment and the human impact on it, Sturgeon Fest is a pure celebration of communities coming together to make a lasting and positive change.It is a celebration of what happens when we all step up to the plate and don’t accept the status quo. It is a celebration of the amazing work countless organizations and individuals do throughout the region to protect, restore, and promote the bounty of natural resources Wisconsin-ites have been blessed with.

Perhaps, most of all, it is a celebration of the next generation and the world we want to leave them. The feeling you get watching an ecstatic child release one of these tiny (not for long) prehistoric creatures into the water is almost indescribable. When you realize that young sturgeon, with its 100 plus year lifespan, will possibly not only be swimming through the entire lifetime of your child, but through the lifetimes of her potential children as well (and beyond), you truly realize the scope of this project.

Did we mention it’s really darn fun? Aside from the opportunity to sponsor and release a sturgeon, Sturgeon Fest is jam packed with awesome activities for all ages (a small sampling: prairie tours, kayak demonstrations, arts and crafts, magicians, a scavenger hunt), delicious local food trucks to sate your appetite, interactive booths from our friends and partners around the region, and a special live performance of drama, song, and puppetry from Kohl’s Wild Theater and the Milwaukee County Zoo.

For all the information on the festival, the project it supports, and to sponsor a sturgeon (we highly recommend doing so online before the festival to ensure we don’t run out of fish and to avoid having to wait in line!), check out our brand new Sturgeon Fest website at!

Not So Plein

Plein air art is all the rage these days, with major events taking place locally each year in Cedarburg, Door County, and Shorewood alone! What makes this art form so special? What even is it? And how do you start? We’ve got the answers! Riveredge is very excited to be offering an intro course on August 24th with a full day of instruction, experimentation, and creation from talented artist and educator, Colleen Koziara. To give you a sneak peek of what to expect, Colleen was kind enough to answer some of our questions on plein air.

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What exactly is plein air art?

Plein aire means “open air”. Simply put, plein air is painting outdoors, live from nature.

What makes it unique?

Most people paint from picture references, in studios. Plein air painting allows you to experience the changing light in a scene and really see how it moves and changes, and in doing so, how it changes the shadows and colors of your subject.

What do you enjoy most about this type of art?

The surprises! Would you use purple while painting a wheat field? Nope. Not until you have sat and watched the sun go down and realized that the shadows become purple, or blue! The color knowledge gained by sitting and watching the sunlight move across the land is unequaled by any formal studio training, anywhere.

Is this something only experienced artists will be able to do well? What if I’m new and don’t have a big art background?

NO previous experience is necessary!! Beginners will have a wonderful time, and not only learn about color and technique, but they will also have a chance to let go and learn about just having fun with a new form of art. ALL Materials and equipment are provided. You will go home with a finished piece of art you created yourself!

What can participants expect to do/learn at the class on Riveredge?

We will learn to choose our view and setup our painting layout for interest and depth. We will identify our own artistic preference for vista, tableau or closeup and how to adjust our painting to support that. Color identification, mixing and brush technique. Information on their medium of choice that day and the proper equipment, usage and cleanup. They will learn how to make and use a perspective frame, and how to take beneficial photos for future use as picture/color references. We will discuss how to equip for a plein air session anywhere. And, based upon conversations that just come up during class, probably a whole lot more!!

The power of tree climbing

Since we started a tree climbing program at Riveredge three years ago, we’ve had constant reminders of the power of adventure and exploration on kids (and adults!) From an increased sense of self confidence to a new appreciation for the world of around them, the impacts are tangible and numerous. We didn’t want you to have to take our word for it, though, so we went straight to the source. In this guest post, Cathy Gettelfinger, the mother of Ryan, a three year Tree Climbing Club member, shares what tree climbing has meant for her son and her family. Thanks so much to Cathy for this beautiful write-up!



We live in an amazing world.  It can also be a very busy and full world.  Our lives are often occupied with school, work, sports, errands, and endless digital distractions.  Our children have opportunities to accomplish fantastic things that one or two generations ago would not have been imagined.  We all want our children to get the best start in their lives that they possibly can, and we make sacrifices and work hard so they will be successful.  We make plans, juggle appointments, and overlap schedules so we can fit as much as we possibly can into every day.

It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of constantly planning for the future.  But by doing so, we may never be able to slow down enough to enjoy the “now.”  This is one thing Nature can help us with.  It can help us stop, listen and breathe.

Nature does not come out only on sunny days, or hide from a strong wind.  It does not plant itself only in ground where it will grow strong roots.  Nature exists in every moment of every day, no matter what.  Nature does not live a perfect, orderly life, yet it has complete freedom.  Nature doesn’t yearn for anything other than what exists right there, right then.  Nature doesn’t care about what will happen in 10 minutes, or tomorrow, or next month.  It is true to itself, and it is content.  There is something about witnessing that absolute persistence that is both humbling and inspiring.

The Tree Climbing program at Riveredge has been such a breath of fresh air (literally) for us.  It’s more than ropes and saddles and the goal of going up in a really, really big tree.  Tree climbing gets people outside into Nature, off the pavement, away from video games, and into the woods for a little while.  That is a great start, but it does so much more.  Tree climbing gives our kids a place to find balance physically, mentally and emotionally.  They don’t even know it’s happening – they just know they are having fun.  They come out of it with tired arms or legs, but they have such a renewed energy and attitude.


There are so many positive effects to come out of a morning or afternoon spent in the trees.  Free and unstructured time.  Personal fears relax.  Discovery and investigation.  Our brains are given a chance to slip out of the normal thought process and get creative.  Instead of specific instructions and predictable outcomes, our kids are set loose to decide their own favorite activities in the trees.  Sometimes it’s swinging on the ropes, experimenting with pushing off and spinning.  Many times it’s reaching a high branch, and sitting still, and enjoying the dappled sky through the tree canopy.   Whether laughing with a friend, or enjoying the quiet and thinking about nothing particular, it seems to come naturally around the trees.

Nature is random and does not follow the patterns of man-made things.  When kids get out in the woods and investigate the sticks, rocks, bugs and mud up close, they will find infinite variety.  They will see and touch things not found in our schools, homes, or manicured yards.  Whether the view is from high up in a tree, or down close to the ground, the kids will be challenged about what to think, or do about it.  And the answer is often to do nothing, but just observe and appreciate it.

Eventually, after some time in the woods, we will go back to our lives outside Riveredge.  We may need to remind ourselves of that feeling in the woods, in the trees.  And for our children, and ourselves, we should pause, and let Nature help us stop, listen, and breathe.  Enjoy this moment.

If you would like your own chance to relax and commune with nature Riveredge has many tree climbing options.  You may attend an open tree climb, schedule your own group climb or birthday party, climb with Summer Camp, or join one of our three tree climbing clubs.  For more information please contact Steff at or visit

Happy Earth Day!

Hiking through the prairies as the first flowers of spring bloom around you. Sitting at the bank of the river. Swaying from the treetops in a cool summer breeze. Snowshoeing through a grove of pines.

No matter the season, Riveredge and the power of nature are here for you 365 days a year. Whether you seek solitude or community, adventure or lazy days, the beauty of the great outdoors is that it’s more than a place, it’s a way of life.

What better time to celebrate this fact than Earth Day! In honor of this special day, we’ve partnered with our friends at Digital Pollen for a special video celebration. We think you’re going to like it.

Inspired to get outside? Help Riveredge remain a nature getaway for you and your family. This Earth Day, commit to donating $10 or more monthly and you’ll become part of our brand new Great Outdoors Club!

As a member of the Great Outdoors Club you’ll feel great that you are a critical part of sustaining a piece of wild Wisconsin that has been changing lives for almost 50 years. You’ll become a leader in the movement to bring the great outdoors to families, schools, and neighborhoods. And, to show our appreciation of your partnership with us, our Great Outdoors Club members also receive very special thank you gifts. You’ll be invited to quarterly outdoor adventures and receive a Riveredge bumper sticker, both only available to Great Outdoors Club members.

Great Outdoor Club members are automatically All-Access members and your membership and donations will continue to renew with no work on your part until you choose to stop. Nifty, huh?

Riveredge is around because of good friends like you.

We hope you’ll consider joining the Great Outdoor Club by becoming a monthly contributor.

Thanks for all that you do for Riveredge and the great outdoors. Happy Earth Day!

Meet the iNaturalist Nature-Wonderers: A New Wave of 21st Century Scientists at Riveredge

There are a new wave of scientists at Riveredge. They walk upright, have two legs, two eyes, and a sharp brain with a knack for nature-wondering. You’ll know that you’ve spotted them on the trail when they abruptly stop in their tracks, and suddenly, but swiftly, reach for a smart device in their pocket while swiping fingers dance across the screen. Who is this new breed of 21st century scientist, you ask? Well, at Riveredge, we call them “Nature-Wonderers,” and they never leave home without their most coveted tool, designed to alleviate all the nature-wondering one could possibly have. It’s name: iNaturalist.

Stolen directly from the website, iNaturalist is an app and web-based program created to record and organize nature findings, meet other nature enthusiasts, and learn about the natural world. For the purposes of this article, I’ve boiled it down to three reasons why I think children, families, and adults should consider using iNaturalist in their outdoor experiences.

A student in the Homeschool EdVentures program at Riveredge takes a smile break before taking a photo of a creek dogwood shrub to add to a class project page on iNaturalist during a late-February morning class.

Three reasons why I love iNaturalist:

Your own personal pocket naturalist

I don’t know about you, but from the time I was little, I always wanted to know what everything was called. I wasn’t satisfied until I knew the name of the beautiful prairie flower that looked like a purple Fourth of July firecracker or the tiny forest frog with skin the color of leaves in the Fall. I wanted to know what everything was called. I’ve found that the students in my Homeschool EdVentures class are no different – often stopping in the middle of the trail to exclaim, “Ms. Carly! What’s this?!.” I’ll be honest, I don’t know the answer to many of their inquiries, but I think that’s OK. It doesn’t take long to arrive at a response, and through a short questioning series, as a group, we arrive at a (mostly) named species.

How do you get started identifying? Locate “Guides” and search “Riveredge” to discover over five different guides (birds, plants, butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies) with more on the way. Narrow your search by typing in keywords (e.g. flower, purple, etc.)

Contribute to crowd-sourced research

Once you have your species found on your smart device, select “Observe” to show that the species are present at your specific location (**Note: You need GPS enabled on your device for location accuracy). Add a photo and you are one step away from having contributed “scientifically reliable” data. In addition to photo and location, iNaturalist asks for crowd-sourced verification of species. Since there are hundreds of thousands of iNaturalist users, it shouldn’t take long for your observation to be verified.

Set your eco-expectations

Before you head to Riveredge or another natural area near your house, check out the “Places” or “Projects” pages. Riveredge has a Phenology Project that serves as a photo journal of plants and wildlife commonly found in the sanctuary. If you add your observations to the “Riveredge Phenology Project” page, you will see yours there too! iNaturalist pulls photos from open-source databases like Flickr, Encyclopedia of Life, and Wikipedia, so you have access to high-quality photos free of charge.

And, the best part, all this and more are available for free on any smart device. If an Android or Apple phone doesn’t hold a place in your pocket, iNaturalist has made a great web-platform to view in your browser as well.

What are you waiting for? Stop your nature-wonderings and check out iNaturalist on your next visit to Riveredge. Find out more by clicking this one-page flier here.

Carly Swatek is the Educational Technology & Evaluation Specialist. She works to integrate technology into the outdoor programming at Riveredge for students and visitors alike. If you have questions about this article or other educational technology opportunities, contact

Christmas Bird Count Flies High

Each year, Riveredge helps lead the Newburg Christmas Bird Count. Dedicated volunteers spend a day counting as many bird species and individuals as they can find in our local search area. The results are sent to the National Audubon Society who compile data from around the US for the longest running citizen science project in the country. Here’s a recap of this year’s count from Mary Holleback, our Adult Programs Manager. 

December 2015 was the warmest on record in the Milwaukee area thanks to the El Nino weather pattern affecting the entire U.S. this winter.  It was also to blame or credit for many of the unusual birds seen on December 19th during our annual Christmas Bird Count.   One such sighting in the Cedarburg area (7A) was an ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD.  Yes!  I said hummingbird!  It’s only the second time in the 115 year history of the Wisconsin Christmas Bird Count that this western species has been documented.  The bird was reported and photographed by Dan Panetti, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Mequon.  He helped the home owner create a nectar feeder that wouldn’t freeze by modifying a heated bird bath.  Local bander, Mickey O’Connor, from the Milwaukee County Zoo banded the bird earlier in the season.  (See the January 2016 issue of the Badger Birder for more information about anna’s hummingbird sightings in WI).

Birders also saw seven bald eagles, the highest number ever, in our count circle.  Three of them (a family of two adults & one immature) were sighted feeding together on a carcass in the Little Kohler area.  Jeannie Lord, owner of Pineview Rehabilitation Center, stated that there was an active nest near the river this past summer.  The Natural Heritage Conservation Program has been conducting aerial surveys over Wisconsin for the past 42 years in search of eagle and osprey nests.  In 2015 they found a record number of 1,465 eagle nests, at least one nest in every county except Milwaukee and Kenosha.  Nationally, eagles and ospreys have made a big comeback since the use of DDT was outlawed in this country in the 1970’s.

Five melanistic mutant Chinese ring-necked pheasants were also reported in the same area.  These large pheasants with iridescent, greenish-black plumage are one of 49 species brought here from Asia and released for hunting purposes.  They survive and reproduce well in crop fields, wetlands, grasslands and brushy thickets. Look here for pictures and more information.

Fifty-nine field counters logged a cumulative 193 hours and 1,140 miles looking for birds.  While 34 feeder counters in 28 households put in a total of 46 hours documenting birds in their yards.  Eighteen households watched for two hours in hopes of adding additional species to their lists.  Due to the efforts of all of these birders we saw a total of 65 species and 15,337 individuals which was just a little below average for our count circle.

Prolonged warm weather enticed a few summer residents into staying longer.  Included in that group were: sandhill cranes (36- highest #), turkey vultures (3-highest #), great blue herons (3), northern flickers (8), American robins (149), belted kingfishers (4), chipping sparrows (2), fox sparrows (2), song sparrows (3), northern harriers (6), and northern flickers (8).

Birds were widely dispersed due to the lack of snow cover and mild temperatures.  We didn’t see any of these somewhat nomadic winter birds: common redpolls, lapland longspurs, snow buntings, or horned larks.  We did however encounter these common winter birds: two rough-legged hawks, 24 pine siskins, nine red-breasted nuthatches, seven brown creepers and three tufted titmice.

Clear blue skies made it easy for us to identify ten species of waterfowl, seven species of hawks, and six species of sparrows.  Only a single individual of each of the following species were found: wood duck, ring-necked duck, merlin, northern saw-whet owl (heard), northern shrike, and golden-crowned kinglet.

If you participated in or wish you could have participated in the Newburg Christmas Bird Count you may enjoy Cornell’s Great Backyard Bird Count being held February 12 – 15, 2016. Visit their website at for more information.  Then continue counting during Wisconsin’s second Breeding Bird Atlas by reporting breeding bird activities near you.  Details can be found at

Thanks to all those who participated in our annual count and start recruiting your friends to help you in the 2016 count.

Happy Birding!

Meet The Staff

We’ve got an awesome crew of individuals at Riveredge working to help bring the great outdoors to families, schools, and neighborhoods, and we want to let you know a little more about them. In this edition of our new feature, Meet The Staff, find out who believes in ghosts, who grew up going to Riveredge, and whose pump up song is the Packer Rock Anthem.

Cassie Bauer
Family and Community Programs Manager

What do you do at Riveredge?  I am an instrument of collaborations, connections, and community engagement. I work to welcome all families from surrounding communities to the wealth of programs at Riveredge. Coordinating seasonal family festivities that are organically awesome (such as Fall Family Festival, Frog Fest, and Handmade for the Holidays) are my forte! I am quick to high five local scout groups for their achievements, create a clamor about a birthday celebration, and extend a hand to other community entities committed to the health, development, and merriment of local families and the environment.

What is your favorite spot at Riveredge? The Milwaukee River is certainly my favorite spot at Riveredge. The hike along the River here is one of my favorite and the river is so dynamic. The river is so peaceful and holds so many opportunities to spend quality time in the wild. It is a great spot to see bald eagles flying over, crayfish scurrying under rocks, and kids cross to Trailblazer Island!

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? I believe in ghosts. 

What words do you try to live your life by? “We do not inherit the earth from our
ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Cree Proverb

Pam Uhlein
Seasonal Naturalist

What do you like most about Riveredge? I grew up going to Riveredge and so I love rediscovering the land which has changed SO much over the years. It’s beauty has matured and deepened tremendously. I also really enjoy getting to know the staff and volunteers — there is such a tangible feeling of community at Riveredge!

What do you like to do outside of work? I grew up in Wisconsin but just moved back after being gone for 20 years. So, I love to explore my new/old state and find beautiful spots where I can hike and explore with my family. I’m also one of those strange people who love winter and SNOW – I especially like to cross country ski and go animal tracking. Also high on the list are trail running, traveling, and cooking yummy meals after all that fun outside.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Exactly what I am today!

Who’s your favorite Disney character? Ms. Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks — she was one heck of a creative problem solver!

Carly Swatek
Educational Technology and Evaluation Specialist

What do you do at Riveredge? My role at Riveredge is that of a “princess of gadgetry to enhance learning and measure social change”. Like many of the educators at Riveredge, I teach programs to area schools, children, and families, but during the other half of my day, I specialize in experimenting with new technology that will innovate and expand our already-high quality educational programming.

What do you like to do when not at Riveredge? It would be accurate to call me a “horse fanatic.” Outside of work, I have the fortunate privilege to live on a horse farm with my boyfriend and Golden Retriever named Hoover.

What’s a quote you try to live your life by? I heard a quote recently from Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm that resonated with me. He said, “a society is only as healthy as the first ten inches of its topsoil.” There is no better way to link the story of environmentalism and land stewardship than through our stomachs.

What is your go to pump up song? Packer Rock Anthem.

Meet the staff

We’ve got an awesome crew of individuals at Riveredge working to help bring the great outdoors to families, schools, and neighborhoods, and we want to let you know a little more about them. In this edition of our new feature, Meet The Staff, find out whose passion is dark chocolate, who thru-hiked the whole Ice Age Trail, and whose superpower involves smiles.


Carrie Hiestand
Inquiry-Based Curriculum & Instruction Manager

What do you do at Riveredge? As the Inquiry-Based Curriculum & Instruction Manager, I work with a team of dedicated educators to provide inquiry learning experiences for students of all ages. Venture out into the forests and prairies of Riveredge and you may find me in the midst of students testing soil, sketching tree frogs, and humming to slugs! Come along to follow your innate curiosity and connect with nature.

What do you like to do when not at Riveredge? When away from Riveredge, one can find me exploring the good land of Milwaukee! I love to kayak, garden, cook (although I can never follow a recipe!) and hike. While exploring new places, I could take 100 pictures where others might only take a handful. Lastly, I love to try new tasty foods- I guess you could say that I have adventurous taste buds!

What are you most passionate about? Experiences that allow people to realize that we are part of Earth’s ecosystems, not separate from them. Also, dark chocolate.

What words do you try to live your life by? “My work is loving the world.” – Mary Oliver


Natalie Dorrler 
Associate Director of Development

What do you do at Riveredge? I share the stories of Riveredge in order to inspire others to ‘join the movement’! By writing grant proposals and corporate sponsorship requests, I help acquire funding that is essential to the success and growth of Riveredge.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? I thru-hiked the whole Ice Age Trail in the summer of 2014. The Ice Age Trail Alliance and all their volunteers are another amazing community of people who work to protect and share our wonderful Wisconsin resources!

What’s your supowerpower? Making something out of nothing (think MacGyver).

What words do you try to live your life by? “Keep on rockin’ in the free world.” 


Lauren Wendland
Lead Environmental Educator

What do you do at Riveredge? I am an educator.I teach kids about nature and how it’s connected to every aspect of our lives.

What do you like to do when not at Riveredge? I love the outdoors. I need to move; I run, bike, hike and do yoga. It’s like brushing teeth…a daily routine. In my limited downtime, I like to read and watch old movies.

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? The ruins in Tulum, Mexico overlooking the ocean.

What’s your superpower? I can make a kid smile.

What words do you try to live your life by? “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir

November Organic Produce Sale

Crisp fall nights, autumn leaves, football games, homecooked meals…

Time to dust off the crockpot and make some soup!

Riveredge has a fantastic selection of organically raised produce to get you through the winter available for sale!

Available items include:

  • BEETS: Golden or red beets. Excellent roasted.
  • CELERIAC (also known as “celery root” cooks like potato in a soup)
  • ONIONS: Large yellow cooking onions (store very well)
  • POTATOES: “Carola,” yellow potatoes that are excellent for roasting, frying, or grilling.

Produce is $1.25/lb for quantities less than 50 lbs.

Or, get the best bang for your buck and try out our mix and match sale– buy 50 pounds of organic produce (of any kind and combination!) all for only $50.

To order, all you need to is contact Keith at to let him know your choices and arrange pickup.

All the proceeds support Riveredge’s mission of environmental education. Eat great and help kids learn. What’s not to love?

Become a Member

Take advantage of all the benefits of a Riveredge membership year round!

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