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A Layman's Guide To: Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri
Recently we took our youngest son and daughter on a little excursion to Springfield, Missouri, home of Bass Pro Shops amongst other venues. When possible we always find a way to spend several hours wandering along the pathways of Dickerson Park Zoo. Located on the north side of Springfield, it is but a stone's throw from I-44 and is well worth the visit. Take a break from your workday and wander along with us on this fine late Spring day.
On this day, we approached the gate with our online tickets for the family and spied a pure white Peacock lounging above our heads on the roof of the entrance. The call of this peacock sounded wild, strange; and it prepared us for another adventure in the wilderness which lies beyond our back door.
As we entered we made our way to the area which serves a dual purpose of entering and exiting the zoo. One can choose several pathways which interconnect with one another so getting lost or missing exhibits is very difficult to accomplish without expressly trying to do so. We normally move to the right, visiting the first few exhibits which include animals from South America such as flamingos, Capuchin Monkeys, Toucans and Squirrel Monkeys. You don't move too far along until a distinct and potent aroma assails your delicate nostrils. Skunk? No, that would be the zoo's Maned Wolf. A fairly large wolf which has a very unusual odor about him, this beautiful example of the wolf family lounges his day away just to the right of the pathway.
As you continue on you will make your way across a walking bridge, elevated above a waterway. If your eyes are sufficiently sharp you might see a pair of Mute Swans easing their way along the pond's surface. Below the surface lie several dozen very large Koi fish in a wide assortment of colors. Elsewhere you might see a Snapping Turtle basking in the sun's rays, content to enjoy the warmth of this day.
Looking closely, you will see a Pelican. Remember that old saying, about "his beak holds more than his belly-can"? I have no idea where I first heard that but know it was many, many years ago.
Do you enjoy visits to a zoo near you each year?
Moving on, we cross into that strangest of continents, Australia. Here we will find Red Kangaroos hopping about foraging or lying on the hillside beyond our reach. We also are introduced to a strange bird with a very strange name: the Kookaburra.
Just beyond the Kookaburra lies one of my family's favorite haunts: the petting zoo. Goats, a donkey, miniature horses and maybe even a calf await you, standing up and reaching for treats distributed in a nearby vending machine. Be sure to move along the fence to see each and every animal and to equally divide your attention and loving pats and laughter.
Time to move on though. Up ahead lies creatures which really might live in our own back yards!
We are entering the wilds of Missouri! Home to Black Bears, River Otters, and maybe even a Bobcat or two! I love these oversized kitty cats, with their piercing eyes. It just looks like you could scoop them up and hold them as you pat their heads, but I fear they might take exception to your affections and let you know it in no uncertain terms. Best to view them from the safety of the pathway. Raccoons and Coyotes await, as does Whitetail Deer, Wild Turkey, and that most beautiful of the Canis family, the Gray Wolf. On this trip I felt for this wolf as he was alone within his enclosure. Wolves are family animals, pack animals and to see one alone is heartbreaking to me.
Oh wait, I missed one! There, just to the left of the Whitetail Deer enclosure, do you see it? Wait, is there two of them? Hiding on the rocks in the back, see them? Mountain Lions! Puma, Painter, Catamount, Cougar, or Panther, whatever you call them they are magnificent! If one gazes into their eyes for too long one gets lost in those amber orbs and will not willingly be found. But they look so beautiful and cuddly, don't they?
On to Asia!
Okay, let's move on now. Up ahead, just past this curve lies one of every kid's favorite animals, the Elephant. Now kids this is an Asian Elephant, not an African Elephant. Can you tell the difference? No? Well, the easiest way I know is to look at their ears. An Asian elephant's ears are smaller than an African Elephant's. Did you know they are hard workers in Asia? In some places, people domesticate them and use them to move things around, to pull things that are too heavy for humans, and even to ride on! They are also used in the circus as performers.
Okay, now just around this stand of bamboo lies one of the most beautiful animals in the world, the Tiger. This is a Malasian Tiger, and even though it looks big, a Siberian Tiger is even bigger. Aren't they magnificent!
Are you having fun? Great! Okay, let's keep moving because up ahead is the fastest land animal in the world. Can you guess what it is? Let's go!
The Dark Continent
Alright, stick together now and be on the look out for dangerous animals hiding around every curve. We are moving into the heart of The Dark Continent, Africa. As we climb this platform, look out across the grasses and see if you can spy the fastest animal in the world, the Cheetah. Look carefully now, they blend in to the shadows there under that tree. There they are! Did you know a Cheetah can run almost 70 miles per hour when chasing down its food? Or that they do not retract their claws like other cats do? And look at that long, long tail; they use that for balance and as a rudder when they are running after something.
Alright, who needs a bathroom break? It's just there, past the little snack hut and playground. You go ahead, I'll wait here by the Bongo and Royal Crowned Crane. See you in a minute!
Okay, glad you're back! Can you see the yellow feathers on top of the Crane's head? They kind of look like a crown, don't they? Now turn around slowly because the Giraffe's are behind you! They are so tall! Come on, let's get over to their area because we can feed them standing on the platform that puts us up high enough to reach their heads.
It's just through here; oh wait, there's a giant python in that case! Be careful!
Okay, let's buy some grain crackers for the giraffe's. Careful, that tongue is lo-o-o-n-n-g! And if they don't think you are paying attention to them, they sometimes butt their heads against your hand, so watch out!
Hey, look way out there, towards the back of the enclosure; is that a baby Giraffe? It is! Isn't it cute?!
Wait a minute, what was that? Did you hear that?!? That sounded like a Lion! Come on!
Oh there they are, the King of Beasts. Listen carefully and he might roar again. Did you see him yawn! Look how big his teeth are! Wow!
Okay, glad we all made it past that enclosure; that was close. Okay next up, the Zebra. I never can tell if they are black with white stripes, or white with black stripes; can you?
Over there is a Warthog, like Pumba in The Lion King. Man, is he ugly!
Okay, we're getting close to the end now; just a few more areas to visit. Want to go into this building? There is an alligator in here! Over here is the giant turtle; that one is the Leopard Tortoise. Wouldn't it be fun to ride one of them?
Let's go over there next; but don't be too scared! It's only (duh duh duh) the Reptile House!!
What's in there, you ask? Oh, just a few snakes and creepy crawlers, safely behind glass. Things like Rattlesnakes, Anacondas, Tarantulas, Water Moccasins, Poisonous Frogs, and such. But first we need to stop and see the Bald Eagle over there. Something happened to him and he is blind in one eye so he stays here, safe and sound.
Okay, let's wander around the Reptile House and see all of the poisonous snakes and such. They give me the heebie jeebies! Don't tap the glass though, one of those snakes might strike at you!
Whew, we made it out of that Reptile Building! Would you like to take you picture on that giant toad over there? Or maybe play in the jumping water spouts? It's a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Ready to finish? Okay, we'll walk past the little lake that has Lemurs on that island over there, then take the train ride in a minute or two. First, we have to see the Hippopotamus. Did you know they are one of the most dangerous animals in the world? Their name means River Horse, and they may seem harmless but don't get between them and the water when they feed at night! They will run right over you!
Okay now we can ride the train. It goes around the lake a couple of times and is a great way to end our day here at Dickerson Park Zoo. A stop at the Gift Shop to buy something to remember this day with and it's time to hit the road. Take care and thanks for spending an afternoon with us here! See you next time!
- Dickerson Park Zoo
Home for Dickerson Park Zoo. Be sure to see what zoos join together and offer discounts to Friends of the Zoo.