The 50-acre zoo was designed to take advantage of the natural ponds and Live Oak forest along the Brazos River. Gibbon Island is surrounded with a pond stocked with two black swans that don't take any monkey shines from the island's other occupants. Visitors can watch all the action from a picnic area above the island.
The newest addition to the zoo is Explore Texas, an exhibit of 27 different species of Texas snakes and arachnids. Hang on to the kids. The exhibits are meant to educate as well as entertain, and the little ones might learn something if they're not careful.
The path through the zoo wanders past a small herd of Texas longhorns, a bald eagle, and three Galapagos tortoises to the barnyard and children's contact area next to the Ranch House. At the flamingo pond, not all of the stilt-legged birds are pink.
The Treetop Village is another picnic area, complete with snack bar, overlooking the giraffe and zebra pen. It's a sign of our times, perhaps, that kids maneuver computers to explore the animal kingdom in the Touch to Know room next to the hot dog stand with such ease and enjoyment.
The zoo's two white rhinos (they're really more of a gray) are usually very active and come up to the moat that separates them from the visitors. One nice thing about the Cameron Park Zoo is that most of the animals have plenty of room. Unfortunately the African elephants can get so far away from the viewing area that they almost look small.
Two animals that seem to have cramped quarters compared to the elephants are the beautiful Sumatran Tigers. Listed as endangered, the tigers are a part of the zoo's participation in the Species Survival Plan (SSP). By joining the SSP, the zoo adds to the world-wide herd of animals that are losing their natural habitat. Unfortunately, this may be the last chance for many of the world's most beautiful and intriguing animals.
Waco's Cameron Park Zoo is open Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm, Sunday, 11am-5pm (reduced winter hours may still apply), and is open every day except New Year's Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. While at the zoo at 1701 N. Fourth, take time to also visit the wilderness areas along the river in Cameron Park. For more information on the zoo, call 817/750-8400. For information on other attractions in Waco, call 800/922-6386.
Coming up this weekend...
Mud Dauber Festival and Ball in Luckenbach offers a day and evening of fun at the Texas shrine, Mar. 15. 210/997-3224.
Floating the Forks on the Angelina and Neches Rivers from Martin Dies, Jr., State Park is offered to those with or without a canoe, Mar. 15. 409/384-5231.
Free Outdoor Seminars continue at REI with Family Camping, Mar. 20 and Introduction to Climbing, Mar. 27 at 7pm. 343-5550.
Footloose in Ireland will be the topic of Tim Cookingham's presentation at Whole Earth Provision Co., Mar. 18 at 7pm. 476-1414.
South Texas Polka & Sausage Fest in Halletsville includes lots of music and German food, Mar. 22-23. 512/798-2311.
Roswell Incident exhibit at the Space Center in Houston marks the 50th anniversary of the alleged UFO encounter in the New Mexico desert, through May 24. 800/972-0369.
Grand Canyon Flood Expedition explores the effects of the experimental surge of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam, Apr. 1. 800/446-7238 or http://www.oars.com.
Day Trips, Vol.1, a book of the first 100 day trips from this column, updated and expanded, is available for $6.95, plus $3.05 for shipping and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, 1712 E. Riverside Dr., Box 156, Austin, TX 78741.