Colorado is fast becoming one of our favorite weekend destinations. Cheap flights in and out of DEN and a 2.5 hour travel time from the bay area makes it the perfect destination for a quick trip. Add in the breweries, restaurants and mountain views, and you have the perfect spot for a mini vacation!
For this last trip, we spent 48 hours in the Denver area. After a day of walking around downtown, enjoying Washington Park and visiting the Molly Brown House Museum, we chose to spend our second day outside of the city.
Our destination? The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg CO! The sanctuary was only about an hour away from downtown and equidistant to the airport, ensuring we could get back in time for our flight.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is almost 800 acres and is home to over 500 rescued animals. The entrance fee for adults is $30. This may seem pricey, but note, it is a tax deductible donation to a non profit, and goes directly toward animal rescue and rehabilitation.
At the start of your visit, you will be asked to watch a video orientation. This intro is very informative and helps you to better understand just how special the sanctuary is. It explains that there are an estimated 25,000 wild animals living outside the zoo system. What does that mean? Essentially, thousands of wild creatures are being kept in private residences, sold as babies for “pets” and forced to live in prison like conditions as they are chained in backyards, apartments and garages.
Because these animals have never known the outside world or even their own kind, they cannot safely be introduced to the wild. As an alternative to euthanization, the sanctuary provides these rescued animals with a habitat to live in.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary has pioneered a rehabilitation system for these creatures, to help them survive and thrive in their new home. Starting with smaller individual enclosures, the animals are slowly introduced to others of their own species and then moved into larger habitats where they can roam and live out the remainder of their lives in freedom.
One of the most unique parts of park is the the elevated, 1.5 mile walkway that extends out over the facility. For the first two decades of the sanctuary’s operation, it remained closed to the public. This is because when humans approach wild animals, it triggers their “fight or flight” instinct. Zoo enclosures are designed to protect humans, so the animals cannot “fight”, but they also trap the animals so they are unable to act on their “flight” instinct. This dilemma causes the animals extreme stress.
Obviously this was not something the sanctuary wanted to inflict on the animals, so they pioneered an ingenious solution; an elevated walkway.
Interestingly, land animals are territorial about being approached from their own level, but things happening above them are of no consequence. The raised observation deck now allows visitors to see the beautiful creatures without them even knowing you’re there! The pathway is ADA accessible and there are multiple restrooms along the path as well as a snack bar and picnic areas.
Although this accessible design accommodates families, it’s important to note, this is not a zoo. Small children should not run around unsupervised. Additionally, their expectations should be tempered. The animals in the sanctuary are not corralled for your entertainment, so you are not guaranteed to see everything. We heard some very clever parents explaining that this simply makes the animal sightings even more special!
Not only is The Wild Animal Sanctuary a wonderful place to educate yourself about different species of carnivores, it is a wonderful spot to enjoy the majestic landscape of Colorado. The rolling plains and mountain views are an incredible sight to take in. We can’t help but hope that sanctuaries like these will replace traditional zoos, in order to educate people and help them enjoy the beauty of nature.