What is it about kids and animals? The two just seem to fit together. And if you have animal-loving kids, it’s almost a given that you’ve spent some time at the zoo. But have you ever heard of Indian Creek Zoo? This unique walk-thru zoo, just across the state line in Lambertville, MI, is definitely worth the trip.
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 Joe Garverick, president of Indian Creek Zoo. “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.
“This is a regular zoo– not a petting zoo– but families can really get up close and personal here,” Garverick explained. “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.”
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 and recently, a reindeer.
“We’ve really seen a lot of growth over the last year,” Garverick said. “People’s time is so valuable, but they want to get kids out of the house to do stuff. And a lot of them have started coming here.”
Garverick and his wife, Patti Lyden, live on the property. You can see their house from the parking lot. Together, they’ve seen the zoo grow.
Garverick has purchased more land around the current property and has plenty of ideas for what he’d like to see in the future.
“We’re excited about our new project, ‘No Child Left Inside,’ which will feature an outdoor playground where kids can run around, be outside and just enjoy, This project is about getting kids outside, off their devices, to enjoy nature.” Picnic tables will surround the playground where parents can sit and chat while the kids play.
This month the new sloth exhibit opens. Children 10 and up can participate in a Sloth Encounter. It’s $20 for 30 minutes to hold and feed sloths Hokey and Pokey.
Work will soon begin on a swamp/bayou exhibit where alligators Elvis and Priscilla can settle in and make themselves at home. A bald eagle will arrive in the coming months, too, along with an anteater and a few other animals.
Something extra, Giving Back
There’s more to do than just see exotic animals. Garverick wants to give back to the community, so he enjoys working with organizations and charities to host fundraising events. You can also book a birthday party at the zoo: for $250 you get admission for up to 20 guests, along with a behind-the-scenes tour and camel rides. There are also summer camps, field trip options and group discounts available. You can check indiancreekzoo.com for details.
Indian Creek Zoo
Monday – Saturday
Admission (one day pass):
Kids (17 and under) $8
Kids (2 and under) Free
2744 Consear Road, Lambertville, MI