South Bend's first zoo was a modest duck pond in Leeper Park in the spring of 1902, originally called the South Bend Zoo. In 1912, the location was changed when a herd of deer was moved to Potawatomi Park. The new zoo was based out of a house on Wall Street which had been used by the Anti-Tuberculosis League to house TB patients.For Potawatomi Zoo and beyond, use our South Bend trip planner to get the most from your South Bend vacation.
The current facility and name were formalized as Potawatomi Zoo in 1921 when a single deer was donated by Albert Russell Erskine, then president of the Studebaker Corporation.
At the end of the Great Depression in 1940, the Works Progress Administration constructed the zoo's Cat House, its first permanent structure. The building still stands, and through renovations, now serves as home to Amur and snow leopards.
In 1971, the St. Joseph Zoological Society, now called Potawatomi Zoological Society, was formed, with Craig D. McCowan as its first director. In 1981, the zoo began charging admission, to provide an accurate attendance count as well as revenue.
In 2014, the Potawatomi Zoological Society and the City of South Bend entered into a partnership for the Society to run the Zoo with financial support from the City.
Potawatomi Zoo reviews
What a hidden gem this place is! Wanted to take the grandkids to the zoo, but wanted to avoid large crowds. Since I have a membership to a local zoo, I looked up reciprocal zoos nearby and saw this.... more »
My sister in law, her grandkids & myself spent a beautiful summer day walking thru & enjoying all the wonderful array of animals. They had a little kiddie train for a price, that looked like fun... more »
I went to this zoo with tempered expectations and was pleasantly surprised. While operating on a limited budget, the zoo has made significant enhancements and improvements over the years, with routine construction occurring. While some areas still have a dated appearance, the zoo is remarkably clean and nothing felt rundown. The exhibits all seemed well taken care of as well. Options for food and drink were very reasonably priced. My largest complaint would be parking. The zoo lot fills up very quickly, and overflow happens on the surrounding streets. I was almost deterred from visiting by this, as from the outside, the day appeared unbearably crowded. I parked on a side street and walked maybe 8 minutes to the entrance. Once inside, my fears disappeared. Plenty of room on the paths to walk at my own pace. Many exhibits I was the sole viewer at times. Definitely a good destination for an inexpensive, couple hour day trip.
Great little zoo with lots of happy animals and family fun. Would have been better if train was running. Also Otter Bar and Round Barn were closed. Lot of renovation happening so I'm sure next year will be better. Kids enjoyed the day.
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