When you are thinking of great zoos around the country, central Kansas is probably not what comes to mind. But, this incredible zoo is definitely one to visit.
Thus far, we have bragged so many times about how incredible the Great Bend Zoo is. When we were in Great Bend, Kansas last month and invited to visit and tour the zoo, we had no idea what to expect, but it was one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had. As soon as we stepped through the door, we were greeted by yet again some of the most hospitable people in the country, then introduced to Ashley Burdick, the Curator and Zoo Supervisor.
Right out of the gate, we were introduced to the animals that call the first room of the
zoo home, including an armadillo found only in South America and a family of chinchillas
that are from the Andes Mountains in South America that enjoy dust baths more than
anything in this world. Following this walk-through, we visited the renowned Raptor Center
where their mission is to protect and conserve these glorious animals throughout
rehabilitation, education, research, and habitat preservation.
A walk around the grounds of the zoo introduced us to a world of animals from seemingly every country on the map. We were incredibly impressed with how the animals responded to Ashley and it was evident that they take a great deal of time with the creatures. The cleanliness and layout of the zoo made for one of the most pleasant experiences, minus the geese that think they actually own the zoo.
A high point for Brandi and Dori in the zoo were seeing the enormous and powerful grizzly bears. Not only did they get to see them, they also were able to feed them apples. On our recent journeys to Tennessee and north Alabama, Brandi had been begging for an opportunity to see a black bear on one of our hikes. Little did she know in the Midwest she would not only get to meet a grizzly but feed it too. Have we mentioned yet that this amazing location is free??
The history of this spectacular place is almost as fascinating as the animals. The first director of public lands, Brit Spaugh had an incredible vision to open a free zoo in Great Bend.
In 1953, the first animals arrived to the zoo at the City Park. That same year, the zoo’s first “dangerous” animals arrive at the zoo. Two black bears were donated to the city by the Montana Fish and Game Commission. The older of the two bears had been the Montana University football squad mascot. In 1959, an alligator was found at the Arkansas Sand and Gravel Company pit and was relocated to the zoo. On May 28, 1964 – Two four month old Polar Bear cubs arrived at the zoo, after a California business man was hired by a Great Bend resident to go to Alaska to hunt a female bear and capture her cubs.
The amazing animal stories did not stop there. On July 16, 1965, six rare Trumpeter Swan cygnets hatched at the zoo. According to the US Department of the Interior, the hatching of the Trumpeter Swans in captivity had never been recorded in the 100 years of records of the department. With all the amazing growth of the zoo, it was not without challenges. But, they have continued to overcome at every turn and are now a zoo everyone must visit at least once. In most large zoos, it feels as though you are just a number but at the Great Bend Zoo, you really matter and visitors feel as though they actually get a first-hand experience with the animals.
There are so many ways for the public to get involved to make this bond even better. You can sponsor an animal, donate to the zoo in general, or volunteer in several capacities. You can also hold events there and get behind the scenes tours, special enrichment viewing, and be the keeper for day.
The zoo is located at 213 Main Street in Great Bend and their phone number is 620-793-4226. They are open daily 9am-430pm except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make plans to not only visit the incredible city of Great Bend, Kansas but this spectacular zoo!