Durango Nature Studies

Durango Nature Studies has been providing hands-on nature education since 1994. We teach students, adults, and families from Bayfield to Cortez, CO, and from Silverton, CO, to Farmington, NM! With a small core staff, dedicated volunteers, and interns, DNS serves more than 9,000 people annually.

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General Information

Official Name
Durango Nature Studies​​​​​​​
DBA/Trade Name(s)
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Date Established
Offers Additional Colorado State Tax Credit
Tax ID
Headquarters Address
1309 E 3rd Ave.
Durango, CO 81301
Colorado Location
1309 E 3rd Ave
Durango, CO 81301
Mailing Address
PO Box 3808
Durango, CO 81302
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Mission Statement

Founded in 1994, Durango Nature Studies is a 501(C)(3) non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of, knowledge of, and respect for the natural world by providing diverse and hands-on learning experiences for all ages of residents of the Four Corners region.

Organization History

Durango Nature Studies grew out of an informal discussion in 1992 between two friends, but its success has been a result of a vision developed into reality by a handful of local residents. Ann Rilling and Janet Kenna were the first to talk about creating an organization dedicated to educating the community about the natural environment. In late 1993, the two naturalists joined Caroline Johnson and Winston Dines to frame the specifics for a non-profit nature center on acquired land that could double as a natural preserve.

The group found a semi-permanent home on 40 acres along the Florida River, and in June 1994, Durango Nature Studies (DNS) was born. By the fall of 1994, DNS reached out to its primary target audience -- schools. With the support of teachers and school districts, DNS naturalists reviewed school science standards, lesson plans, and educational goals. The result was DNS' marquis program -- Children Discovering Nature, which is a tailored program which meets state-mandated science requirements.

In 1998, the vision to own our own land began to unfold, and through a series of key donations, grants, and negotiations with the seller, DNS purchased what is now the 140-acre Durango Nature Center, which serves as host to our educational programs and popular summer camps. This site serves as a natural learning laboratory for nearly 5,000 students annually.


"I'd like to support Durango Nature Studies- I have experienced this wonderful program with my family and I believe it is very important!" ~ RK

"Durango Nature Studies is one of the most legitimate nonprofits in Durango. I love what they do!" ~ JB

"Students benefit by seeing in person the things we've only talked about or seen in videos or books." ~ 2nd grade teacher, Florida Mesa Elementary

"For some of my students, they said this was the first time they had ever hiked in the mountains! For them to see the real world examples of what we were learning in class has unlimited educational value!" ~ 3rd grade teacher, Kemper Elementary

"It aligned very well with my animal adaptations unit. Great hands on and culminating experience for what we were learning. Great depth of knowledge and vocabulary presented" ~ 4th grade teacher, Aztec, NM

"Durango Nature Studies provides phenomenal programming year round for our children, building love and appreciation of nature in our kids." ~ MV

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