Nature at The Confluence (NATC) is a new urban environmental learning center located along Turtle Creek where it meets the Rock River in South Beloit, Illinois, adjacent to Beloit, Wisconsin. Located at exactly the half-way point of the Rock River Trail, the 72-acre property has over 1 mile of undeveloped waterfront and includes a 17-acre uninhabited island that provides safe haven for a nesting pair of eagles. Programs at the center bring life and activity to the former derelict property in the heart of the South Beloit. See map of property
The NATC campus was assembled through a combination of public land and private property purchases.
The $2.2 million project was spearheaded and funded by Beloit 2020. This private organization raised all funds for land acquisition and construction of the center and then donated it to the City of South Beloit. The environmental learning center opened in June 2017 on a 12-acre parcel at the campus and operates as an independent non-profit nature center.
The Confluence Campus is situated on historically significant land.
Until 1832 the area was the site of a major Winnebago village called “Ke-chunk” or “Turtle”. Government surveys at that time show Turtle Village at the confluence and it was reported that it included 35 lodges and over 600 inhabitants, the largest in the Illinois and Wisconsin territory. Learn more about the history of the land on this page.
The Confluence project tells a very important story about urban ecology and restoration.
The confluence land was used as a dumping ground for over 80 years. Hundreds of tires have been dumped on the land and waste foundry sand and other solid waste was regularly deposited on the land for several decades, leading to over 8 feet of fill and debris.
A natural resources inventory in early 2014 found the site’s ecology severely impacted by previous land uses; an abundance of invasive species; inappropriate bank stabilization techniques; and declining ecological health of the site. However, nature continues to persist and evidence of many special organisms and vegetation can be found on site. Projects and programming at NATC will focus heavily on water quality and habitat restoration. A 5-acre prairie recreation has been planted and learning gardens and a pollinator garden have been installed.
It is expected that the Nature at The Confluence project will stimulate adjacent and regional redevelopment.
The prospect of creating a visitor and regional attraction by cleaning up the land, improving the aesthetics, and providing community access to derelict and abandoned lands at the Confluence creates a powerful story and argument for the improvement of adjacent property. In fact, plans for a proposed Library/City Hall near the center on the campus property already demonstrate how the development of the campus could improve South Beloit’s main thoroughfare.