One of the best attractions the Omaha zoo has to offer is its wildlife park. The Conservation and Wildlife Park is actually located about 30 miles west of Omaha, near Ashland.
The park offers visitors a great opportunity to drive among wild animals, including elk, white-tailed deer, bison and an assortment of birds and water fowl.
I took the day off from work for my birthday. I looked forward to visiting the park, followed by a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. As Mother Nature likes to do this time of the year, she chose my birthday (yeah, a little narcissistic of me) to drop a local record amount of rain – 1.25 inches.
With the rain, I decided to use my fallback birthday outing – a trip to the Strategic Air and Space Museum (formerly the SAC Museum).
However, she did toss me a bone. As we approached the exit from the interstate, the rain let up (happy birthday to me!). As we came to the stop sign – turn right and go to the air museum; left and we are off to the wildlife park. So…we turned left.
The park’s animals are separated by fences and automatic gates.
When first arriving, visitors get an up close look at elk. A large herd roams the grounds at its leisure. The elk can be roadside or a good distance away. We’ve yet to visit and not be impressed by the elk.
During this visit, the elk were scattered. One was standing under tree branches to avoid the rain that had just stopped before our arrival. As we pulled over to the side of the road for a photo opp, he decided to head down into a ravine. Oh well! There were others who would “pose” for us.
On to the white-tailed deer. Usually, these guys can be hard to find. They like to hide among the trees.
This time, though, they were actually walking along the road. When they saw the car, they scurried off.
But, we caught them eating some corn. They were joined by some squirrels. So, life was good in the deer area.
Moving along, we came upon the wetlands area. The area is home to pelicans, ducks, geese, frogs and turtles. Since it had rained shortly before our visit, we skipped the walking trail because it was, well, too wet in the wetlands (I am here all week. Try the veal. Tip your servers).
We watched the pelicans for a few minutes. They were huddled on the shore and logs. A few appeared to be shivering since it was very chilly.
The wildlife park has a few walking trails. Take advantage of them when you can. Otherwise, everything else is viewable by vehicle.
Moving along from the wetlands, we drove by the aviary. The aviary is home to three bald eagles and a few other birds. They were all hidden from view because of the weather, so we traveled on.
The park has a nice petting farm and picnic area just past the aviary. A variety of animals can be seen at the petting farm – goats and chickens mainly. It is a great stop for families with small children.
Nearby are wolf and bear viewing areas. They are worth checking out. The wolves will often come into the clearing and give folks a great look.
The black bears are hit and miss. We miss seeing them more than we see them. That’s the life of a bear, I suppose. When you see them, the trip is worth it.
Next stop is the waterfowl area. Sandhill cranes are the dominant bird in this area. It is amazing to get closer to them than you can during the annual migration in central Nebraska.
The cranes are beautiful creatures. I can stay and watch them for hours. The call is cool to hear. Watching them walk across the road and along the roadside is enjoyable.[bctt tweet=”Been to the @Omahazoo? Now check out the @Wildlife_Safari – it’s one of our favorites #Omaha” username=”walkingtourists”]
The pond’s water level appears down this spring. That is expected with the drought and overall dry winter. A few geese and swans were swimming. Ducks were also in the area.
The last major visit is the bison area. The American bison roam their area freely. It’s easy to imagine what these creatures would have looked like on the plains more than 100 years ago, multiplied by several thousand.
A few elk were in the area, but it was owned by the bison.
Bison (aka American buffalo) are majestic creatures. They can run up to 40 mph. But, they mainly walk along the pastures, grazing.
We were lucky in seeing a couple of them get into a head-butting match. During mating season, this is common to get the attention of females. The two combatants were determined during the confrontation. They went at it for a few minutes. Once, we had to move the car a few feet because they were getting closer. Lisa thought it would be odd to explain to the insurance company why we had a dent in the side of our car. “Well, sir, a bison ran into it.” Not sure I’d buy that claim, either.
As we finished our tour through the wildlife park, the rain started falling again. We really lucked out.
The park is worth the drive out from Omaha. If traveling to the area, this should be a must-see for visitors. Admission is $6.50 per adult, $5.50 for kids 3-11, and free for kids under 3. Seniors (65+) get a discount – $5.50. Memberships are available at $35 for a family.
For more information on the wildlife park, or to plan your visit:
If you have a full day to spend, combine the park with the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
However you visit, enjoy it. It is worth the drive.