Sequoia Park Zoo - Wild Adventure In A Small Package

When we moved from the Bay Area to the Mendocino Coast we gave up a lot of city conveniences, like Walmart, a major airport nearby, and the zoo, which I knew I would miss the most. If you’ve read through our blog much you know that I’m a former zookeeper, avid animal nerd, and make zoos and aquariums regular stops in our travels. Luckily, unbeknownst to me, situated just a few hours north of us in Eureka is one of the smallest AZA accredited facilities in the world- The Sequoia Park Zoo. The trip here was a surprise so I didn’t do much research beforehand, but the whole morning was a pleasant surprise and a refreshing way to get my zoo fix in a totally unexpected place.

When I say this zoo is small I mean it is SMALL. Doesn’t even have a parking lot kind of small. We parallel parked on the street by the elementary school nearby and walked up to the massive redwood gates welcoming us in. At only $10 per ticket I wasn’t sure what I would find inside, but I was delighted to find out. We entered near the watershed display, mimicking and educating visitors about the very important ecosystem that surround the local area. Here we saw salmon, otters, and an interactive fountain that lets kids play in the different zones of the watershed. At 58 degrees, I decided I would skip the splash park, but the local kids who beat us there were undeterred by the cold. It was the Friday before Halloween and we thought we had the zoo to ourselves, save for one other family with a gaggle of little ones and the zoo staff who were setting up safety guidelines and decorations for that weekends “Boo at the Zoo” event. This gave us as much time as we wanted to observe the animals and peaked the zoo residents curiosity. The otters spent twenty minutes checking us out through the glass, bringing us the enrichment items they had inside their habitat, and playing hide and seek among the different glass panes.

We moved on to our next exhibit featuring a porcupine, and talking about the history of the porcupine in Mendocino county. I had no idea that these remarkable little creatures were part of our local fauna. To combat their decline, there were plenty of resources showing visitors how to help porcupine populations in their own backyard.

My two favorite animal exhibits were the red pandas, a longtime crowd drawer and one of the cutest animals to ever walk the planet, and the Patagonian Cavy. What’s a Patagonian Cavy? I didn’t know either! These crazy little things look like a mix between a rabbit and a deer, and they’re bigger than my puppy. According to the signage they are one of the largest rodents on earth and squeak like guinea pigs. I was enthralled and Nathaniel basically had to pull me away so we could move along the pathway. They were cohabiting with a large bird called a Crested Screamer, also native to South America. Two new-to-me animals together in one exhibit. Remarkable.

As part of the Halloween decor, the staff had set up dollar store headstones around the butterfly garden, but with a closer look they were not generic by any means. They were each dedicated to a different animal who succumbed to extinction. From the dodo bird to the Vaquita, who number a total of 12 remaining in the wild. It will definitely add a somber and educational tone to the Boo at the Zoo event. I was surprised by the creativity of the educational staff, who really brought out the scary side of the holiday!

Sequoia Park is without a doubt a local zoo. I’m sure they host thousands of visitors throughout the year, as they pass through on the 101, but it is clear that they are geared towards the members of their community. In the Barnyard petting area of the zoo, there is a Little Free Library for visitors to take or leave a book. There was a young woman with a packed bag stocking it as we visited, with books for readers of all ages. Upon doing some research I learned that the local library has three annual passes that patrons can check out to visit the zoo free of charge! Local librarians are the true heroes, dedicated to spreading knowledge by all means possible. The zoo and the community work together to make it accessible to everyone in the area.

On our way out the door we saw the educational and keeper staff working together to film a video about feeding and enriching the otters, accessible on the zoos website, to bring the zoo to would-be patrons in these challenging times. There were plenty of animals that we saw that I didn’t make mention of here, like primates, an aviary, and a barnyard play area. What really got our attention was the Redwood SkyWalk currently being constructed, that lets visitors wander among the massive trees with the zoo far below them. I have no idea when the exhibit will be open, but we will make sure to stop by again when construction is complete and our path leads us through Eureka again.

The best things do come in small packages. I’ve visited zoos all over this country and I am always amazed to see how each facility uses whatever resources it has to entertain and inform its visitors. Sequoia Park is proof that you don’t need hundreds of acres, flashy shows, or the high profile animals to create an environment of education.

Update on this place!

The Redwood Skywalk is getting ready to open soon! We plan on making a return trip to this amazing little zoo to let you know what our experience walking in the air feels like! For more information on the Zoos plan for this exciting attraction click on the link below!

Sequoia Park Zoo Updates

Original Post on 11/13/2020

Updated 4/9/2021


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