Last night, I saw a Facebook post from a friend who is going with her family to the Denver/Estes Park area of Colorado on vacation. They have never been and she was looking for suggestions of things to do that weren’t the normal “touristy” things. Well, I have been to that area I think 7 times- all told. We LOVE Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are perhaps my favorite geographic place in the United States. So, my mind IMMEDIATELY jumped to one place!
About 45 minutes north-ish (perhaps a bit northeast) of Denver is a place called The Wild Animal Sanctuary. On one of the trips my wife and I made out there, we stumbled upon by looking through the brochures the hotel we were staying in had. It looked like something that would be right up our alley so we set aside a day to give it a shot.
We drove out to the Sanctuary. It sits out in the middle of nowhere- as you will understand once you hear about it. You end up outside of any town, driving down a road that looks like it belongs alongside a cornfield in Illinois. You pull up in front of a very unassuming building in the middle of a LOT of open space and LOTS a really tall fences.
Once you get in the building, you are in the gift shop. It’s also where you arrange to tour the facility. As I recall, they have a “set fee” to get in that they refer to as a donation to the sanctuary. You pay and move forward. Once you leave the building, you immediately go up onto a LONG, raised walkway. (When I say “raised”, it ends up being probably thirty feet in the air.
The first thing you see is a rather small structure that serves as the hub or several pens that surround it. These pens contain the newest residents of the sanctuary. The purpose of this sanctuary is to rescue large predators- lions, tigers, bears (oh my!) and wolves from unhealthy environments and rehabilitate them. This first stop on the tour is the new animals who are beginning the process of being released into a large habitat with others of their kind. This step is often a slow process.
Then, you continue on the raised walkway. Over the next mile or so, you walk this walkway, seeing Jurassic Park-like “pods were the different species live. Each pod is huge- LOTS of space for these animals to thrive in. The envirment in all of the habitats is the same- kind of an open “prairie” with both nature and man-made shelters for the animals to be under or in the be shaded.
There, you will see packs of lions…or tigers…or bears…or wolves. You can ALWAYS see animals; sometimes they will be farther out and sometimes they are very near the base of the raised walkway. Either way, you don’t find yourself saying, “Where are the animals. As I recall, scattered along the way are mounted binoculars to help you see them better. Taking your own would NOT be a bad idea!
Along, the way, you hit a couple of covered buildings that the walkway runs through. One of them includes a place where you can get food while the other one provides you with an overhead view of assimilated tigers who need special attention (a pregnant one), tigers who have passed the first round of assimilation but aren’t quite ready to be fully released in the pod or simply an indoor space for the tigers to go. When you get to the end, unless they have completed to walkway since I was there last time), you turn around and retrace your steps- ergo a pretty fair amount of walking!
It is so cool to see these magnificent animals being rescued and living in these LARGE natural habitats. (The first time we visited there, the wolves happened to get fed while we were there. The pack climbed onto top of the den that was near the gate where the truck came to bring the food…and howled! They KNEW what the truck meant!!
I don’t usually use this space to promote a business, but this one is A. non-profit, B. such a unique place to see these animals and C. we are HUGE animal lovers in our family! If you ever visit the Denver area dna are looking for something new- a hidden gem- to visit, I highly recommend the Wild Animal Sanctuary! Here is a link to their website- https://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/
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