An Indian elephant on his way to cool off in the stifling midsummer at the Denver Zoo in Denver, Colorado. Photo by James Giago Davies
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Native Sun News Today: Nothing beats taking the kids for a day at the zoo

Nothing beats taking the kids to the zoo

Denver isn’t that far away
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

DENVER—If you live in western South Dakota, and you want to go to a zoo, you have a long drive ahead of you. Bismarck and Sioux Falls and Watertown have little zoos, but the nearest big zoos are Omaha and Denver.

The late Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom made the Omaha Zoo world famous, and it is an outstanding zoo, with impressive habitats and theme buildings, but there is something else it has, oppressive midsummer humidity and stifling heat.

It will get hot at the Denver Zoo, but since the city is a mile above sea level, the humidity is never a problem. The zoo itself, is laid out in user friendly, interlocking, circular sections with plenty of parking on the north side, and a large lake on the south side.

Parking south of the lake is tempting, because there is plenty of parking spots, but it is ill advised, as vehicle theft is common. A security patrolled parking garage on the northwest corner of the zoo has a walkway leading to the main zoo entrance.

You should plan for a whole day at the zoo. The gate opens at 9 am, and closes at 5 pm during the summer, and starting in November, hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Summer prices are $17 for adults 12-64, $14 for seniors 65+, $12 for children 3-11, and children 2 and under are free. Winter prices are $13, $11, and $9, respectively. Not bad, considering you can spend all day there.

Like all zoos, you take your chances with the animals. They are not employees and feel no obligation to keep themselves on display for your convenience. You can drive hundreds of miles to be frustrated by a critter that won’t leave his den or building, but if you put each failure behind you, and focus on the next section, something unexpected and memorable that you did not expect usually makes up for what you lost.

For example, the polar bears. They refused to dive in the water so you could view them underwater through a glass wall, and they were just ignoring people. Just when spectator interest started to wane, a man from the crowd got down in a crouching position and moved back and forth along the polar bear habitat. A bear immediately responded and began to enthusiastically mirror his movements. When he raced to the far side of the habitat the bear raced along with him. Along the way, the bear saw people pressed up against the glass watching, and suddenly changed directions, slamming hard against the glass, paws high up and spread wide, scattering people in every direction, a group of pig-tailed girls both scared and laughing at the same time.

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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at

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