Starr's Cave Nature Center

Nature Center in Spring
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  1. Starr's Cave Nature Center

    Physical Address
    11627 Starr's Cave Rd.
    Burlington, IA 52601

    Mailing Address
    11627 Starr's Cave Rd.
    Burlington, IA 52601

    Phone: (319) 753-5808

In addition to serving as headquarters for Des Moines County Conservation's award-winning Environmental Education Program, Starr's Cave Nature Center, located inside Starr's Cave Park and Preserve, offers many other amenities.

Starr’s Cave Nature Center is a building bearing a striking resemblance to a barn. That is because the original use of the nature center was as a barn. Estimated to have been built around the 1910-1920s, the barn belonged to William Starr (from whom the park is named after). Starr was a German immigrant who homesteaded the land of present day Starr’s Cave Park and Preserve around the 1860s. The Starr family lived in the limestone house which still stands today next to the nature center. Along with horses, cows, and other livestock, the Starr's ran a winery. The hilltops now shaded by trees were once covered in grapevines.

In the early 1970s, the barn was renovated and made into a bar and restaurant named the Sycamore Inn. Present Starr’s Cave Nature Center staff often hear visitor accounts of the good old times that were had at the Sycamore Inn. Later, in the late 1970s, the barn and 184 acres of land surrounding it, was purchased by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It was at this time the land was designated a Park and Preserve and made open to the public. Although Starr's Cave Nature Center is owned by the DNR, up to present day it has been managed by DMCC since the DNR purchased the land. Presently, Starr’s Cave Nature Center is the hub of DMCC’s environmental education program.

Students building a Leopold Bench

Starr's Cave Nature CenterIn addition to all the things to do within Starr's Cave Park and Preserve, the nature center itself has many displays and things to see and learn about, including live animals. The nature center has recently undergone major renovations with the first and second floors being almost completely demolished and rebuilt. New displays and activities accompany the building's renovations. 

Starr's Cave Nature Center maintains the following hours:  

Summer Hours*
April 1 – September 30
Saturday: 8:00am-4:00pm
Sunday: Noon-4:00pm

Winter Hours*
October 1 – March 31
Monday – Friday: 7:00am – 2:00pm

*The nature center may not always be open during these hours as staff is regularly out teaching environmental education in the schools and our parks. We always suggest calling (319) 753-5808 before your visit to make sure the nature center will be open. 


From Highway 61, take Sunnyside Avenue or Upper Flint Road to Irish Ridge Road. Follow signs to Starr's Cave Road. Nature Center is at the end.

Physical Location

11627 Starr's Cave Rd.
Burlington, IA 52601