I visited the Zoo on Saturday 7/24/2021 to see the newly born baby flamingo. It was a hot and humid day with temperatures in the 90F. My last trip was about two years prior after a good fifteen or so years hiatus. On my previous visit I was surprised to see all the changes that had taken place there. The zoo now looks like larger US Zoos even though it only encompassed 170 acres. Did you know that Riverbanks Zoo has been on The National Register of Historical Places since 1973?
The reason has nothing to do with caring for and working on animal conservation. The area where it is located used to be the site of a the Saluda River Factory. Built in 1830, it became the largest cotton mill in the south. When you visit the zoo, make sure to walk the short River trail to see its ruins. Aside from the mill, there used to be a covered bridge that crosses the Saluda river. In February 1865 the bridge was burned in the hopes of stopping General Sherman’s troops from reaching Columbia. Sherman had a temporary bridge built in its place using lumber from the Saluda mill. You can see the remains of the bridge in the middle of the river. There is an interpretive center by the ruins that reveals more information about the area at that time but it was closed during my visit.
If you continue on the trail, you will hike through a paved path that leads you through a beautiful wooded area to the Botanical Garden. As I made my way on the trail along the Saluda river, I smiled as my mind traveled back a few years when I used to bring my children here. There is a specific spot they called their castle. They’d race to arrive so they can play a quick game of “war” arguing about who actually won the rest of the way to the botanical garden.
The zoo is super busy on weekends. People were everywhere. I ended up wearing a mask even though I was outdoors because there was no way to social distance. It was hot so I was not very comfortable but chose safety over comfort. If you decide to go, I strongly suggest a weekday visit. Buy your ticket online as I did and you can save $5 on parking.
The zoo cares for a variety of animals from Africa, Australia, Asia and North America. All were not out during my visit but I did see lion, rhino, monkey, giraffe, gorilla, koala, baboons, flamingos, Galapagos tortoise… I very much enjoyed the botanical garden as well. It is always an enchanting place to stop by. The zoo also offers water activities, various children play areas, a zipline, a carousel, wall climbing, splash zone as well as snack areas and restaurants with mobile ordering abilities. They offer children camps and backstage encounters as well as signature programs such as Boo at the zoo, Lights before Christmas, Wine tasting. It’s a gem of an establishment, enjoyable to young and young at heart alike.
Reference Zoo web site
On The Trail
- Spring 2020 at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
- Summer 2020 at Columbia Canal and RIverfront Park
- Winter 2020 at Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
- Columbia Canal and Riverfront park, 2021
- Saluda Riverwalk 2020