Frequently Asked Questions
Are your trails open to the public?
Yes! The Nature Institute is private property, but we do open our trails up to the public for free. Our trails are typically open from dawn to dusk seven days per week, but closed some winter months. Please check our website or Facebook page for our current hours. Please note that our public restrooms are typically only open Monday-Friday from 8:00am-4:00pm. Dogs, bikes, and horses are not permitted on our trails at any time.
Is TNI public property? Is it tax payer funded?
No. The Nature Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, which privately owns the land. TNI is not funded by tax dollars. Our funding comes entirely from donations, privates grants, and programming fees. If you like what we do here, consider becoming a member today!
Why aren’t dogs allowed at The Nature Institute (TNI)?
The John M. Olin Nature Preserve and The Mississippi Sanctuary are dedicated Illinois Nature Preserves. That means that legally is protected so that wildlife can thrive in perpetuity. The Nature Institute strives to strike a balance between protecting these natural communities and providing visitors with access to nature. For this reason, we do not allow dogs and request that all hikers stay on marked trails. The evidence that dogs negatively impact wildlife is overwhelming. It is clear that people with dogs – on leash or off – are much more detrimental to wildlife than people without dogs. More information about the effect of dogs on wildlife can be found here.
Can I forage for mushrooms at TNI?
No. Collection of any material (including but not limited to plants, animals, fungi, rocks, feathers, and artifacts) is strictly prohibited under the Rules for Management of Illinois Nature Preserves (Illinois Administrative Code Title 17, Chapter V, Section 4000) except with an approved permit from the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. Thank you for helping us project our natural communities for everyone to enjoy!
I found an injured wild animal. Can I bring it to TNI?
No. The Nature Institute is not a wildlife rehabilitation center. If you are concerned that a wild animal may be sick or injured, please call TreeHouse Wildlife Center at (618) 466-2990.
Improper release of animals into the wild can be detrimental to both the animal and the existing natural communities. Release of any animal into a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve is prohibited under the Rules for Management of Illinois Nature Preserves (Illinois Administrative Code Title 17, Chapter V, Section 4000). To learn more about preventing problems with wildlife or removing a nuisance animal, visit the Wildlife Illinois website.
I’m a professional photographer. Can I do a photoshoot on the property?
Yes! Photo shoots are allowed at TNI given the following guidelines:
- A Photography/Videography Permit and payment must be received by The Nature Institute at least 24 hours in advance for all photo sessions
- Permits are available for Day Pass $10.00, or an Annual Pass $75.00
- A copy of the approved permit is to be with the permit holder during the photo/videography session, as staff may ask to review this at any time.
- All Photographers must adhere to the Rules and Regulations of TNI. Anyone not following the rules and regulations will be asked to leave the premises immediately and their permit will be terminated.
More information and the photo permit application can be found here.
Can I get married or host an event at TNI?
TNI does not allow weddings of any size anywhere on our property. We do not rent out our facilities for events. If you are planning a group hike of more than 10 people we ask that you contact us at (618) 466-9930 to let us know and make sure it does not interfere with any of our planned programming or events.
Why are the trails closed in the winter?
As mentioned above, the John M. Olin Nature Preserve and The Mississippi Sanctuary are dedicated Illinois Nature Preserves. That means that legally is protected so that wildlife can thrive in perpetuity. The Nature Institute strives to strike a balance between protecting these natural communities and providing visitors with access to nature. Closing our trails during the winter months gives wildlife a break from human disruption. It also helps to protect the integrity of our trails, because excessive foot traffic in wet conditions can lead to serious erosion issues. Finally, keeping people off slick, icy trails helps keep everyone safe.
What are your COVID-19 policies?
We take public health very seriously, and we have continually worked to create informed policies in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. We are putting extra precautions into cleaning and sanitizing our public restrooms. We are limiting the size of our programs, utilizing only our outdoor spaces, and requesting that masks are worn when in close proximity to other visitors. Additional measures, such as temperature checks, have been created to our dropoff youth programs. We ask that you please follow current CDC guidelines.