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.
Powdermill Summer Camps are Now Available!
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
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 & MoreJuly 7, 2:00 pm
Sam and the Firefly
The moon is up and Sam the Owl is ready to play, but when he pops out of his tree everyone else is asleep! What’s an owl to do? Come listen to this story of Sam and his friend Gus the Firefly as they light up the night sky. After the story, we will make our own fireflies to take home!
Science and Nature ProgramJuly 14, 2:00 pm
Moths, Mayflies, and Molecules: Using DNA to understand the insect-based diets of birds and fish
Brandon Hoenig is a biology PhD student at Duquesne University where he uses modern techniques to answer age-old questions in stream ecology. Brandon studies fish and birds at Powdermill Nature Reserve. He will talk to us about a DNA-based method to determine the diets of migratory songbirds and the brook, brown, and rainbow trout species found in the Laurel Highlands. After our chat, we’ll navigate the woods and streams at Powdermill in search of some of the insect species that both birds and fish rely on for nutrients.
Nature at NightJuly 17, 8:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Fireflies, moths, beetles, and more come out at night! Come hear Andrea Kautz, Powdermill’s Research Entomologist, talk about some of the insects we see at night. After a short presentation, we will head outside in search of these evening fliers.
Please note the time change of 8:30 – 10 pm so that we can observe in the dark.
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.