Visit Powdermill Nature Reserve
Powdermill Nature Reserve is Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s environmental research center. Located 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in Rector, Pennsylvania, Powdermill is a field station and laboratory where researchers do long-term studies of natural populations in western Pennsylvania. In addition to being positioned for Appalachian-specific studies in ornithology, ecology, invertebrate zoology, and botany, Powdermill is a great place to spend a fun-filled day outdoors with the family.
Explore the beautiful woodlands around Powdermill, or visit the nature center, which features exhibits that highlight local wildlife, an indoor stream, and a marsh machine that uses a living greenhouse to purify waste water.
Admission to Powdermill Nature Reserve is free.
Nature Center Hours
April 1–October 31
Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon – 4:30 p.m.
November 1–March 31
Wednesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon – 4:30 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Hiking trails are open
dawn to dusk every day.
Powdermill Nature Reserve
1795 Route 381
Rector, PA 15677
See below for detailed directions.
Programs and Events at Powdermill
Powdermill educators conduct recurring weekend and evening programs throughout the year as well as summer camps June through August.
Storytime and More
Join us at Powdermill Nature Reserve on the first Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. for Storytime and More. Children ages 3 to 9, accompanied by an adult, are welcome to discover the wonders of nature through a picture book read-aloud and related game, craft project, or nature walk.
Science and Nature Program & Nature Explorers
Join us in the Parker Room of the nature center on the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. for a seasonally relevant nature talk. At the same time, children ages 8 to 13 are invited into the Netting Classroom to join us for a hands-on investigation of the natural world! Weather permitting, each lecture will be followed by a brief foray into the field for an interpretive hike.
Nature at Night
Some kinds of nature are best observed at dusk. Join us on the third Wednesday of each month (January through October) at 7 p.m. (Note: 7/17 time is 8:30-10 pm to observe nighttime insects!). Popcorn will be served! Soft drinks will be available for purchase.
Storytime & MoreMarch 1, 2:00 pm
Curious George Makes Maple Syrup
George is learning to make pancakes, and he loves them with maple syrup. When he uses the last drop, George wants to make more for his friend. Come learn with George how maple syrup is made as we read this fun story! Afterward, we will venture outdoors in search of sugar maple trees.
Science and Nature Program and Nature ExplorersMarch 8, 2:00 pm
Pass the Syrup
Nights below freezing and days above mean something very special in the world of sweet stuff: maple syrup! Join us as we explore the art of maple sugaring. We will learn a bit about the history and the process, and then we will get to see it in action!
What’s That Tree?
While the adults listen to a lecture about just one tree, children ages 8 to 13 are invited to learn how to identify many different kinds! We will look at the ways trees change as they reach toward the sky and how we can figure out how old the trees are. We will even head outside and put our new skills to the test.
Nature at NightMarch 18, 7:00 pm
Moonlight and Snow
With Spring right around the corner, sunlight is lingering on the tops of trees a bit longer. The stillness of the evening lets us listen to wind whispering in the still-bare branches, an owl hooting in a nearby tree, or the distant yip of coyotes. Come join us for one more winter hike and listen for the forest to come alive as night settles in around us. Bring your flashlight or headlamp, jacket, boots, and gloves, and hit the trail with us at night.
Earth Day Activities at PowdermillApril 18
Join us on April 18 at Powdermill Nature Reserve as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! There will be free family-friendly activities and take-homes that support nature’s wonderment. Make an “earth dumpling” filled with native plant seeds to nourish your backyard biodiversity. Visit Powdermill Avian Research Center between 8 and 11 a.m., and stop by the Nature Center between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Embark on a guided hike (big hike leaves at 9 a.m., small hike at 10 a.m.), challenge yourself to find 50 species, and visit activity stations. Let’s wander and enjoy the Earth!
Powdermill Nature Reserve was established by Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 1956 to serve as a field station for research on natural populations. General and Mrs. Richard K. Mellon and Dr. and Mrs. Alan M. Scaife presented 1,160 acres of land located about 3 miles south of Rector, Pennsylvania, for the use of Carnegie Museum of Natural History which was named “Powdermill Nature Reserve, a Research Station of Carnegie Museum.” Over the next several years, acreage was added to Powdermill Nature Reserve, and it now offers more than 2,200 acres of woodlands, streams, fields, and ponds for research and educational programs. Powdermill is home to the museum’s GIS lab, avian research center, and a new nature center with ecological exhibits.
Powdermill Nature Reserve is located in Rector on Route 381 in Cook Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Powdermill is 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, off the Donegal interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For information, call 724.593.6105.
From the North
At the intersection of Route 30 and Route 711 in Ligonier, PA, take route 711 south 3.3 miles to the Rector/Darlington intersection. There are signs there for Powdermill Nature Reserve and Linn Run State Park. Turn left toward Rector and go 1 mile. At the bottom of the hill, before going over the bridge, turn right on to Route 381 South. Follow Route 381 South for 3.3 miles to the Nature Reserve headquarters.
From the PA Turnpike
Take Exit #91 for Donegal. After exiting the turnpike tollbooth, turn left onto Route 31 heading east. Follow Route 31 East for 2.7 miles. Turn left onto Route 381 North. Follow Route 381 North for 6.4 miles to the Nature Reserve headquarters.
Powdermill Nature Reserve welcomes all visitors. We work to assist visitors with disabilities in obtaining reasonable and appropriate accommodations and in supporting equal access to services, programs, and activities. Please note that requests for accommodations should be made at least two weeks prior to your visit. For specific questions about wheelchairs, strollers, or other programmatic or equipment needs, call 724.593.5907.
Please contact Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s Accessibility Coordinator with concerns regarding accessibility for visitors with disabilities at the museums. On weekdays, call 412-622-6578 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, read the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Notification/Resolution Procedure under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Should hazardous conditions result in cancellation, announcements will be made on television stations KDKA, WTAE, and WPXI.