I am so glad I was paying attention to the narration on board the Walkersville Southern Railroad ride.
That’s where I first heard a brief history about Fountain Rock Park. When we passed by, I told my husband and daughter that we simply had to go, especially since it was only 1 mile from the train station.
Fountain Rock Nature Center
Our first visit was to the Fountain Rock Nature Center. Before you enter, look for the cabinet made from a tree known as The Little Free Library. Feel free to donate a book to the collection or take a beloved book home. Most of the titles were for young children to enjoy.
We practically had the entire park and nature center to ourselves. For a small space, the nature center does an amazing job at highlighting not only wildlife, but their habitats and contributions to the ecosystem.
I counted at least eight snakes including a pair of Easter Kings, a trio of green reptiles, a corn snake, Eastern Milk one and Coconut, the albino California King snake.
There are a pair of Eastern Box turtles, a wood turtle, Musk turtle, Yellow Bellied Slider and Mississippi Map turtle. I hadn’t heard of some of this different types of reptiles before. You will also see:
- Common American Toads
- Grey Tree Frogs
- Madagascar hissing cockroaches
- Chilean Rose tarantula
- Crickets & mealworms
- Vietnamese Waking Sticks
- A bearded dragon
- A crested gecko
Outside one of the tanks is an x-ray of a turtle who was rehabilitated after being diagnosed from Metabolic Bone Disease.
Not only is it neat for kids to see a real animal x-ray, but it’s also a great tool to explain how just like humans, animals can get sick and need care to get better.
Rocksie, the Yellow Bellied Slider Turtle, received his moniker because as a baby, he ate the rocks in his tank.
I could have spent the entire day hanging out with this turtle, which sounds odd, but he was very interactive, literally following every movement I made.
Especially considering the Fountain Rock Park is consider putting a donation in the box before you leave.
The naturalists were so enthusiastic about their occupations. There were very few visitors that day and they graciously took out a crested gecko for us to hold and emailed a photo to document the experience. Another family that visited were allowed to hold several resident snakes.
Discovery boxes are filled with natural objects, feathers, bird nests, animal shells and preserved insects. Near each animal’s habitat are objects like turtle shells and rubber snakes.
There are informational displays, plants, rocks, preserved “stuffed” animals, animal tracks, bones and fur which you are encouraged to touch. Use wood rings to make a tree for birds, play a game of wooden insect tic-tac-toe or examine an object under the microscope.
There are also plenty of books for children and adults, puzzles, magnifying glasses, binoculars, audio bird encyclopedias, sensory tubes and soft toys for little ones. View Native American artifacts, feel a snare drum or hear what a rain stick sounds like.
If you’re quick, you can spot Downey woodpeckers, cardinals, doves and other species of birds feeding outside from suet in the trees or from the feeders.
Bring coins to feed the fish, turtles, ducks and geese. Animal food dispensers are located outside the nature center. We saw a bunch of wildlife in the quarry pond, including a giant snapping turtle.
The boardwalk is a great place for the kids to connect with nature in a quiet setting unknown to many.
The park has 2 trails:
- A 0.5 mile unpaved trail where you can explore nature with beautiful flowers and trees
- A 0.4 miles paved trail where you can do your outdoor exercise or go for a stroll
You can also check their Interactive Trail Map so you can plan your activity ahead!
The observation deck overlooking the quarry has great views of the 1 ½ acre limestone quarry which provided limestone for the Fountain Rock kilns for many years.
During World War II, German POWs were sent to Fountain Rock to provide labor, which was in short supply. You can see the remains of the kilns, stone crusher and slaking shed in the park.
Also on site are a few tenant houses where employees of the industry lived. Sometimes, one of the units is used for a classroom. There is a touch table outside one of the buildings filled with items of exploration like pinecones, feathers and wood materials.
The centerpiece of the playground is the giant turtle. The space is appropriate for ages 2 to 12 and is a good size. There is also a picnic pavilion with grills and a nearby fishing pond, which requires anyone over the age of 16 to have a license to catch rainbow trout. Take a leisurely walk one of the park’s short trails.
READ NEXT: 19 Nature Centers in the DC Area
Hours & When to Go
Fountain Rock Park
Open daily 8 a.m. to sunset.
The Nature Center
Saturday – Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Monday – Friday is for registered groups only
Good to Know
- Restrooms are outside the nature center and have a changing station
- Both the park and nature center are free to visit.
Fountain Nature Center is located at 8511 Nature Center Place Walkersville, MD.
There is plenty of parking and everything is central to the lot.
Things to Do Nearby
- Take a kid-friendly excursion on an old-school train at Walkersville Southern Railroad (4 minutes)
- Visit the miniature world of trains including a volcano, zoo & circus at Roads and Rails Museum (13 minutes)
- Drive through the Carroll Creek Covered Bridge (12 minutes)
- See the wonderful animals at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve (12 minutes)
- Get away from it all at the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary
While Frederick County is a jaunt from where we live, my family and I would definitely return to Fountain Rock.