The Potawatomi Zoo began as a modest duck pond in Leeper Park in the spring of 1902, originally called the South Bend Zoo, it is the oldest zoo in Indiana. The venue saw minimal growth and the location was changed in 1912 when a herd of deer were 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.
In 1970 progress toward the formation of a Zoological Society was in full swing with the help of the Jayshe's. Committees were formed to create the charter, by-laws and structure/mission of the organization. By July 1971 this was accomplished. The original name of the Society was the St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo. Ernest Litweiler was the first Board President, he was a biology teacher at John Adams High School.
The St. Joseph Valley Friends of the Zoo became an integral part of the renovations that took place in the mid 70s that changed the Zoo from a menagerie/collection of animals into a modern zoo with larger spaces for animals.
Potawatomi Zoological Society projects have included the Chimpanzee exhibit (1995), Asian Carnivores (1998), Alligator (1999), the state of the art Veterinary Hospital (2002) - thanks to some very generous donors, the Potawatomi Zoo Train (2004) and the North American River Otter exhibit (2011).
The Potawatomi Zoological Society continues to work with the Zoo to fund exhibits, enrich the lives of the animals and provide funding to educate Zoo staff.
Potawatomi Zoo Reviews
A wonderful way to spend the day with family. Great animal exhibits close enough to keep the interest of small children. Reasonably priced food items. more »
Affordable entry fee and no parking fee. Lots of different animals with good clear signs. Several places in the Zoo to buy snacks and alcohol. 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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