Information on:

Ballard Nature Center

5253 East US Highway 40

Our History

The history of Ballard Nature Center originates with the nature center's namesake Mr. Ernest "Ernie" Ballard. Ernie Ballard had a dream of creating a nature center for everyone to enjoy and learn about nature. His 210-acre parcel of land east of Altamont, Illinois became the site of what is now the Ballard Nature Center.

Originally, the site was deeded to the Effingham County Soil & Water Conservation District. The District realized the nature center would be better served as an independent 501(C)3 organization and subsequently deeded the property to a newly formed board. On August 19, 1999, Ballard Nature Center board was chartered as a non-profit organization, which better equipped the board to pursue and secure grants and develop and manage the site as a "Nature Center."

Since that time, Ballard Nature Center has developed into a fully functional nature education site with a visitor center, staff, programs, activities, and numerous miles of trails. Ballard Nature Center continues to grow and provides quality environmental nature education experiences and invites visitors to explore the natural world around them.

Our Mission

The mission of Ballard Nature Center is to provide high quality environmental education to students, educators, organizations, and individuals through visitor interpretation, educational displays, natural community restoration and management. Environmental education will emphasize the importance of natural communities and their associated ecosystems especially those communities typically found in southeastern Illinois.

Ballard Nature Center is a place for outdoor fun and education for the whole family.

Outdoors Title:
- Miles of walking trails (or running trails for the more energetic)
- Handicapped -accessible trails, pavilions and fishing pier
- A Kids' Fishing Pond
- Large pavilions with picnic tables, electricity, and running water
- Natural communities: woodlands, prairies, wetlands and

Indoors Title:
- Exhibit room with interactive displays and a bird watching
- Large lower level meeting room, available for rental
- Library, containing scientific publications, children's books,
  videos and photo journals (non-lending)

Creative Touches Title:
- Interpretive signs punctuate the trails
- Naturalists - educators offer tours and presentations
- Arching wooden bridge spans a flowing stream
- Imaginary troll lurks beneath a woodland bridge


Sydney Wright

Saturday, March 10, 2018
This place is my get away. I love it here. Great place to go on a walk and clear your head.

David Lauchner

Saturday, May 13, 2017
A hidden local nature gem. A pleasant mix of developed and natural. Well maintained, wide, mostly easy trails through prairie, wetlands and forest areas. The visitor center was closed when I visited, so I can't comment on that or the other half of the trails I didn't take today, but I will be back for more.

Tanner Clark

Sunday, April 29, 2018
A great place to visit.


Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016
This place was impressive! Hands-on, educational activities filled the building including binoculars to watch the birds and squirrels; exhibits to see and read about; furs, skulls, footprints and trees to match to their species; books to read; puzzles to figure out; fossils to rub on paper; stuffed animals and puppets to play with as well as live fish and turtles to watch in an aquarium. Plus they have special events and activities each month, both indoors and outdoors including toddler classes, kids camps and numerous trails to hike and enjoy! I can't wait to take more kids back to this place!

Jerri Caldwell Hammonds

Thursday, June 15, 2017
Amazing place to take the kidos.

Ballard Nature Center is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media