NWR Staff and Friends volunteers are available at the reception desk to answer your questions about the refuge, inform you of special events for the day and to help you orient yourself.
The Nature Store in the Visitor Center has a wide selection of books available, including field identification guides, as well as a selection of
children's books and educational material. And you can pick up "necessities" such as insect repellant you may have forgotten. The Nature Store is
run by the Friends of the Assabet River NWR.
The exhibits within the center are of high quality and introduce the visitors to the wildlife of the different habitats represented by the Refuges -
intertidal zones, salt marshes, sand dunes, pine barrens, rivers, freshwater wetlands and mixed forests. There are panels describing their characteristics
and accompanying models of the habitats. There are interactive features to keep children and adults equally engaged. These include sounds of the animals
such as bird calls, beavers slapping their tails on the water. Others include pull out drawers with real life specimens of insects and shells.
The exhibits includes a "Night Room” which gives visitors and especially children the sounds of the night. Crickets, owls and other animals of the night.
There are other exciting sound and light effects of lightning and thunder in the background.
The exhibition area also provides a description of describing human activity in the area that is now the refuge dating back to 5500 years ago.
Use by Native Americans led to early European settlers in the 17th century and intense farming in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Much of this research into the
early history was done by the Public Archeology Lab of Rhode Island who conducted archaeological research within the refuge.
Massachusetts and the area around the Concord, Sudbury and Assabet rivers are home to some of the Americans who pioneered the idea of "conservation". The exhibit
area introduces some of the country's Conservation Heroes, our great environmental thinkers from the 19th and 20th century America who have shaped the ideas and
institutions that take care of public lands. Henry David Thoreau, who needs no introduction, President Theodore Roosevelt who designated designated Florida's
Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, Rachel Carson who was a scientist and editor-in-chief of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and
known mostly for her book Silent Spring and Aldo Leopold of the US Forest Service. Special mention is made of Barbara Volkle, the founding
President of Friends of the Assabet River NWR, who played a key role in bringing the Visitor Center to the Refuge.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is thrilled that the visitor center is a green building, the first of its kind within the Service. It
has energy efficient lighting, passive solar arches, solar roof panels, cellulose insulation using newspaper, radiant floor heating, polished concrete
floors, counter tops made of “paper stone” of compressed paper, toilets made of recycled plastic bottles, carpeting made from recycled lumber,
landscaping with native plants and a "no-mow" lawn of short grass varieties, and porous pavement that helps control storm water. The refuge staff and
Friends volunteers will be happy to explain how the building "works" and explain how cost-effective green building can be. For information about the building
see the US Department of Energy's summary of this building at Net Zero Buildings.
Meeting and Education Spaces
The Center has a large meeting room that accommodate over 100 people as well as classroom space for hands on educational projects. The Fish and Wildlife
Service plans to make a curriculum based Environmental Education Program a major fucus of the center.
Environmentally friendly restroom facilities are available both inside and outside the Visitor Center. The facilities outside the center are open
during all hours the refuge is open (sunrise to sunset).