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The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary: Connecting People with Nature

Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, Jim Thorpe, PA

Located just minutes from the Historic District of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary stands as a testament to the power of passion and community collaboration. Owned by Mari Gruber, this unique sanctuary has blossomed into a haven for nature enthusiasts and a hub for educational and recreational activities. With its blend of enchantment and environmental awareness, the sanctuary has captured the hearts of locals and travelers alike.

The journey of the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary began in 2002 when Mari Gruber, along with her sister and some friends, embarked on a mission to create an enriching center on the mountain. With a vision to provide a space for arts, yoga, classes, and activities for all, Mari also had a special emphasis on reaching out to the least-served populations. Despite having no prior knowledge about butterflies, Mari took a leap of faith, and with the assistance of a butterfly expert friend from Hazelton, she established the live butterfly room.

The live butterfly room, known as the flutterarium, quickly became a resounding success, attracting both local visitors and travelers from around the world. It is not uncommon for people to travel for hours just to experience the unique charm of the sanctuary. Visitors are captivated by the opportunity to witness butterflies in flight, using feeding sticks with nectar and magnifying glasses to engage with these marvelous creatures up close and personal.

However, the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary offers much more than just butterflies. Step into the sanctuary, and you will encounter a diverse range of captivating attractions. The frog room showcases poison dart frogs from the rainforest, offering visitors an educational experience about these vibrant amphibians. Phil, the giant millipede from Africa, takes center stage during the summer months, fascinating guests with his intriguing presence. Additionally, the sanctuary houses glow fish, several types of turtles, and five Axolotls, each adding their unique charm to the immersive experience.

Children enjoy feeding monarch butterflies with a nectar stick.

Children are especially catered to at the sanctuary, with an art space where they can explore their creativity and a hands-on science area designed to engage different age groups. Throughout the day, short films and programs are showcased in the large classroom, providing additional avenues for learning and discovery. On days when the weather permits, the pavilion is set up with a multitude of activities for children, ensuring families can easily move in and out of the building and even take breaks when needed.

While the sanctuary does not offer formal tours, it hosts scheduled programs that invite visitors to participate. The average visit lasts between one to one and a half hours, with the duration directly impacting the depth of knowledge acquired.

One of five axolotls at the Butterfly Sanctuary

One of the sanctuary's fundamental objectives is to foster a reconnection between children and adults with the natural world. By inspiring visitors to become actively involved in positive environmental change, the sanctuary aims to instill a deep appreciation for the importance of the natural world. Mari and her team have witnessed countless heartwarming moments as people light up with newfound knowledge and delight at the opportunity to encounter these extraordinary creatures up close and personally.

As Mari contemplates the future, she hopes to keep the sanctuary open for as long as possible. She dreams of finding someone who shares her passion and will continue her legacy when the time comes. She remains committed to facilitating a smooth transition and ensuring the sanctuary remains a cherished community asset rather than being transformed into a retail business.

Challenges do persist in running a butterfly sanctuary. The rapidly changing climate, global warming, and increased pesticide usage have negatively impacted pollinators and their habitats. Many butterfly farms along the east coast have permanently closed due to these difficulties. Obtaining the necessary butterflies from Florida can be arduous, as nature dictates their availability, leaving both the sanctuary and its customers occasionally frustrated. However, these challenges only serve to emphasize the urgency of educating people about the importance of gardening for pollinators, using eco-friendly products, and fostering respect for all creatures that share our planet.

The Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary is a beacon of hope in a world grappling with environmental concerns. It serves as a reminder that each of us has a role to play in safeguarding the Earth's delicate ecosystems. By providing a space where children and adults can connect with nature, the sanctuary is sowing the seeds of change. The sanctuary's passionate team encourages visitors to become eco-heroes, armed with the tools and knowledge needed to protect our natural world for generations to come.

For those interested in experiencing the magic of the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, public walk-ins are welcome from the second Saturday of June until the last Sunday before Labor Day in August. Operating hours are 11 am to 5 pm every day, except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the sanctuary is open from 2 pm to 6 pm. Special programs in collaboration with the environmental center are held on Sunday evenings and can be found listed on the sanctuary's website,

A visit to the Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary promises a truly enchanting and educational experience. From the fluttering butterflies to the captivating exhibits and the warmth of the community, this sanctuary serves as a gentle reminder of the beauty and wonder that can be found when we reconnect with nature.


Regular walk-in Admission: $15.00 per adult , $14.00 per child ages 3 through 12 and seniors 62 and over.

Location: 18 Church Rd. | Jim Thorpe, PA 18229



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