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Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park

August 18, 2017

  • 8313 Pratt Lake Avenue SE
  • Alto, MI 49302
  • (616) 868-6711
  • Website

Did you know we like zoos?  Have I mentioned that recently?  I mean, I guess it has been a few weeks since my last zoo post when we went to the Columbus Zoo.

Our summer has finally settled down.  We’re not on the road every weekend so we’re getting to relax.  We can only relax so much home before we realize, we gotta get out of the house.

All summer we’ve been talking about a private zoo in south east Kent County.  We’ve both had friends who have raved about the place so we made plans before going to bed Saturday night to take a little road trip Sunday morning.

Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park is a private zoo that sits on 80 acres of land with an address in the unincorporated community of Alto in Bowne Township.  The park is near the corner of Pratt Lake Avenue and 84th Street.  Boulder Ridge wasn’t initially built as a commercial enterprise, so location wasn’t of the utmost importance.  The closest highway access is the Alden Nash Road exit of I-96 which is about ten minutes away.  From Kalamazoo, it’s quicker to take US-131 to 84th Street.  That’s about a 17 mile drive through southern Kent County.

We pulled in to a pretty full parking lot not long after the noon opening.  What we didn’t know is that there is additional parking through their gates near the entrance.  We just assumed the only parking lot was the paved lot before the gates so we parked in the grass near the entrance to the lot.

The entrance building doubles as entry to the park and a small gift shop.  I usually gloat about how we get in to zoos for half price thanks to our membership at Binder Park Zoo, but Boulder Ridge is a private zoo and not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  We had to pay full price which came out to $33 for three of us (B is still free).

Boulder Ridge started out as a hobby farm and breeding program about twenty years ago.  It’s just in the last six years that they opened the farm up to the public.

The zoo is packed into the 80 acres pretty tightly.  They make good use of the space putting animal exhibits around a landscaped path that leads you through about half of the collection.

The first thing you really run in to is the Reptile House.  This is an interesting collection because it was actually the owner of the reptiles that convinced the owners of the park to open to the public when he moved his collection to the farm.  The Reptile House is in a metal pole barn but includes both indoor and outdoor exhibit areas.

One side of the Reptile House had pools that housed turtles, alligators, and crocodiles.  The reptiles in this area also had access to a much larger outside pool where we saw several big alligators swimming about.

The other side of the Reptile House had all the smaller, caged reptiles which included a variety of snakes, lizards, and other small reptiles.

Back out on the path around the park, we came across some gorgeous Macaw’s.  There wasn’t a cage or netting around this area just a roof over their head to keep them cool in the hot August sun.

It didn’t take long for us to notice that there was going to be a lot of opportunities to feed animals.  We found the small stand selling carrots, lettuce leaves, and bird seeds to feed the animals.  I grabbed two plastic cups filled with sliced carrots for the kids to feed the goats who were very anxious to see them.

The kids were super excited to feed the goats but there were other animals nearby who weren’t quite as popular as the super cute goats.  I grabbed a few of the carrot sticks and spread the love a little bit just because I felt bad for the other animals who get ignored by the kids who love goats.

When we were done with the carrots, I went back and bought some lettuce leaves.  There are a lot of different opportunities to feed animals.  There are signs around the north end of the zoo that tell you which animals can be fed and which animals can’t.

We left the goats and headed up the path to the part of any zoo that always gets my kids excited.  The giraffes.

This feeding area is a little different than how most zoos do it.  Boulder Ridge has two Reticulated Giraffe’s.  Instead of a platform that puts you at mouth level, the giraffe’s reach over the fence or through the fence for the small kids that can’t reach as high.  We ripped up the lettuce leaves to make it last longer because both kids were having a blast.  B thought it was the funniest thing ever when the giraffe would like his hand as it took the leaf.  L has loved the giraffe’s since the first time we took her to Binder Park when she was really little.

It wasn’t too long before we ran out of lettuce and had to move on.  I guess we missed the kangaroos, which could also be fed, when we walked over to check out the primates.

They have quite a few monkeys, lemurs, mandrills, and tamarins.  They were all quite active too despite the fact that you couldn’t feed these animals.

We walked back towards the giraffe’s to see the Prairie Dogs and I noticed some people picking up some sifters.  It looks like they have some kind of mining operation but the kids didn’t notice it so I didn’t bring it up.

We were actually heading back to the stand we bought the veggies from to pick up some sticks of bird feed.  We were heading in to the walk-in aviary with dozens of little birds that buzz around your head looking for those sticks of bird seed.

L loved it.  B….not so much.  I had several birds on my arm at different times and B just wanted to grab the birds.  He didn’t want to hold the stick.  L had quite a few birds on her stick too but every time they would get on her arms, she would freak out a little bit.  We actually spent quite a bit of time in here.  A stick of seed costs $1 and lasted quite a while.

I said earlier that you could walk a path through about half of the collection.  The other half is only accessible by a bus that drives you through the fields on the back part of the farm.

The busses are old school busses that have the tops cut off and replaced with a canopy.  There were four busses running the day we were there and each trip is about 20 minutes.  The bus takes you along a path to the fields where the herd animals are at stopping at each one.  A recording plays over the speakers giving you some info about what you’re looking at.

These large fields are home to the bigger animals and the animals that are typically in large herds or aggressive.  Each species has it’s own custom habitat.  Some of them are wide open fields.

Other are set back in the trees with small ponds and structures for the animals to get out of the heat in.

The safari was the end of the day for us.  We spent about two hours at Boulder Ridge and saw a lot of animals.  The great part is we got to feed a lot of them as well.

The exit back to the parking lot is back through the same building we entered.  We knew what was coming.  The same thing that comes every time we enter a zoo gift shop.

We had a minor meltdown because L just had to have a “stuffy.”  We got her one in Columbus that she just had to have. We found it hidden in the toy box.  She had no idea where it was, so no, she didn’t get a new stuffed animal.

We were able to get her out with very few tears by grabbing some ice cream bars instead.  There are no concession stands in the park.  There are a couple of vending machines for drinks and the gift shop has some ice cream and Coke products.  J needed water and I wanted a Coke, so we grabbed some ice cream to get everyone back to the car as well.

I’ve heard the criticisms of Boulder Ridge being a private zoo and I understand why some people don’t like private zoos.  I’m not one of those people.  Boulder Ridge has a great collection and it’s put together really well.  We had a great day at this small farm in rural Kent County and can’t wait to go back.

 

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