By Kimberly Feldkamp and Mary Rose Kulczak
Looking for a unique zoo that features interactive experiences and large exhibits in a natural setting? Indian Creek Zoo in Lambertville, MI offers just that. The zoo, which is open to the public from April through October, recently began its ninth year of operation. Tucked into the woods, this zoo features large enclosures with a variety of animals.
“We are an up close, open air zoo,” said Julie Kessinger, event coordinator. “You can feed and pet goats, sheep, alpaca, deer and camels. We offer encounters with sloths, giraffes, and lemurs.”
Visitors to the zoo follow a meandering trail through the exhibits. Guests are able to purchase a bucket of carrot sticks which they are allowed to feed to many of the animals. With more than 400 animals and 80 different species, animal lovers are sure to find their favorites.
“This is a regular zoo – not a petting zoo – but families can really get up close and personal here,” said Joe Garverick, president of Indian Creek Zoo. “We have an official zoo license, so we have the same regulations as any zoo and follow all of the rules for fence regulations and such.”
Not your average zoo
The minute you arrive, the parrots will squawk “Hello,” welcoming you to this unusual zoo.
“The Toledo Zoo is a great zoo,” said Garverick. “We don’t want to be that. We’re a different experience.”
Here there are natural habitats, with larger enclosures for the animals, which are very much a part of nature. A dirt pathway winds up and down, over hills, around trees and leads you right up to the different animals. Rudy, the new reindeer, roams with wild turkeys. In the Australian section, you’ll maneuver around holes where prairie dogs might pop up at any moment to look around, say hello, and then disappear in their burrows again. You can wander through a section with rabbits, see a mama and baby kangaroo interact, watch the peacocks spread their beautiful feathers, see a python slither, or get up close and personal with the giraffes. On the weekends, you can take a ride on a camel, too.
The Indian Creek Zoo is licensed by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), which, according to its website is “… predicated on promoting the highest standards of animal welfare, as well as public and staff safety.”
There are 300 animals – 60 different species – and you’ll be able to see creatures you won’t find at the Toledo Zoo: kangaroos, coatimundi and alpacas, to name a few.
Before the Indian Creek Zoo opened to the public on the weekends in 2014, it was a camel farm. School children began coming for field trips and then the zoo held charity events. Garverick’s bobcat moved from the family home to a new exhibit. Then a pig-tailed macaque (from the monkey family) needed a home; it had been a pet in someone’s basement. Steadily, over a few years, the zoo began to acquire more animals-snakes and sloths, kangaroos and alligators, as well as a reindeer.
“People’s time is valuable, but they want kids to get out of the house to do stuff. And a lot of them have started coming here,” Garverick said.
What’s new this season
“We’ve had two new baby camels born in the last month, Captain Ed and Baby Joseph,” Kessinger said.
“Upcoming events include Baby Animal Days on June 16th and 17th. We also have summer zoo camps, plus many more fun family events to come,” Kessinger said.
For enhanced experiences, guests are able to sign up for private events such as sloth, lemur and giraffe encounters. Weekend visitors can get a snack at the food truck, take a ride on the train, or hop aboard a camel for a ride. When kids need to get a little wild themselves, they can enjoy the outdoor playscapes.
The zoo also offers field trips for groups, and caters the educational experience to all grade levels. Camps are also offered throughout the season, and holiday events are promoted on the website. Past events featured Halloween Family Fun Weekends, Drive Thru Holiday Light Displays, Breakfast with Giraffes, and Birds of Prey sessions.
Families looking for a unique option can book a birthday party, which includes behind-the-scenes tours and use of the indoor and outdoor party pavilions, along with options like train rides. You can check indiancreekzoo.com for details.
Indian Creek Zoo
Open April 1-October 31
Monday – Saturday
Last general admission at 4pm
Admission (one day pass):
Seniors and military $15
Kids 3-17: $8
Kids (2 and under) Free
Season passes are also available for purchase.
2744 Consear Road, Lambertville, MI