Jun 03 2011
When my kids and I toured North Dakota two years ago, we went to the zoos in both Bismarck and Minot and were very pleasantly surprised at their size and quality. This week, taking the backroads from our home in North Dakota to see family in northeast North Dakota, our route took us through Wahpeton, ND, and we made a stop at the Chahinkapa Zoo. I’ll admit that I didn’t have high expectations, mostly because Wahpeton isn’t a very big town. I should have known that size isn’t everything.
My first good sign was that the zoo was well-marked with a sign on ND Highway 13, the primary thoroughfare in Wahpeton. Since I hadn’t planned ahead enough to get directions, I appreciated the well-marked route to the zoo.
Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for kids 4-12, but we enjoyed free admission through our membership at another zoo that participates in the AZA reciprocity program. Then we were off to explore the zoo.
At first glance the zoo didn’t look big, but as we followed the pathways, we found more and more animals. From snakes to birds to monkeys to turtles, we wandered the trails and watched the animals. Bison and tigers and bears, leopards and Dall sheep and black swans greeted us. There was also a petting zoo / feeding area with farm animals; remember quarters if you want to buy feed as I didn’t see a change machine in the vicinity.
We spent an hour at the zoo, and could have spent more time there if my kids hadn’t been eager to get to Grandma’s house. The grounds are well-kept, with many shaded areas and benches for rest breaks.
After leaving the zoo, we crossed the parking lot to the Prairie Rose Carousel. For $1.50/ride, visitors can enjoy a few spins on the restored 1926 carousel, which has been lovingly restored and hand-painted. Around the edges of the carousel are exhibit cases that tell of the carousel’s history and restoration.
Chahinkapa Park’s campground is right next to the carousel, and the rest of the large city park offers a pool and other recreation areas.
Judging by the number of school buses from Moorhead and other schools, Chahinkapa Zoo is a popular destination for field trips, and I was pleased with it as a family outing. Don’t let the fact that Wahpeton is a small town deter you from visiting Chahinkapa Zoo. If you’re passing through the area, it’s a worthwhile stop.