Two kids running in the snow. We all need nature—and nature needs you. Together, we can protect the wildlife and wild lands of Massachusetts for generations to come. Make a tax-deductible donation today.
Two kids running in the snow. We all need nature—and nature needs you. Together, we can protect the wildlife and wild lands of Massachusetts for generations to come. Make a tax-deductible donation today.
boardwalk trail through a grassy meadow
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet

Nature Center at Wellfleet Bay

The beautiful Esther Underwood Johnson Nature Center is an award-winning green building. Within the building there are exhibits, a Green Building "Trail", and a gift shop. Just outside, visitors can take a stroll through our beautiful wildlife garden.

Wildlife Exhibits

The exhibit hall includes a media display featuring videos and photographs of places to explore on the trails year-round. Learning stations focus on the sanctuary’s wildlife conservation work, including sea turtle rescue and horseshoe crab monitoring.

Six fish tanks provide close-up views of native fish, crabs and turtles found in the bays, ponds, and salt marshes of the Outer Cape. There's also a comfortable spot to sit and watch the bird feeders and a wildlife stream.

Wildlife Garden

The area in front of the nature center has been developed as a garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Wildflowers, herbs, annuals and perennials have been chosen for their colors, nectars, and nutrients. Certain plants provide shelter for the night, from wind or rain.

Flat rocks between the pools are good for sun-basking butterflies. Damp areas are favorite hangouts for "mud puddling clubs," groups of young males looking for mates. Herbicides and pesticides are not used, and caterpillars that emerge are welcome to "browse." Spiders and other predators, including birds and toads, should keep larvae numbers in check- a natural balancing act.

Benches are provided for butterfly-watching, but visitors are asked not to walk into the garden itself.

Green Features

In 2006, Wellfleet Bay expanded and renovated the nature center, incorporating numerous green building design principles and features into the new plans. We installed the most advanced roof, window, and ventilation designs available to minimize energy consumption. To lessen the building's impact on land and conserve water, we installed a rainwater re-use system, composting toilets, and a graywater bog garden.

After its completion in 2008, the redesigned Wellfleet Bay Nature Center was awarded Platinum LEED certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC)—the highest rating available.