Salt Creek Greenway Association

The Salt Creek Greenway

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Special Greenway Projects
Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo opened June 30, 1934. The 216-acre zoo, located in suburban Brookfield, Illinois, is known throughout the world for its innovative naturalistic, multi-species exhibits and its international role in animal breeding and conservation. The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Assisting the Society in these endeavors is its animal collection, which consists of more than 2,000 animals, including 116 species of mammals, 124 species of birds, 62 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians, 28 species of fish, and 32 species of invertebrates. (These are year-end 2006 figures.) The animals inhabit naturalistic exhibits reminiscent of their native habitats. Outstanding exhibits include: Regenstein Wolf Woods, Habitat Africa! The Forest, The Living Coast: A World of Surprising Connections, The Swamp: Wonders of Our Wetlands, Salt Creek Wilderness, Tropic World: A Primate's Journey, The Fragile Kingdom, Habitat Africa! The Savannah, and Seven Seas Panorama.

Regenstein Wolf Woods offers unforgettable viewing opportunities to see Mexican gray wolves in a naturalistic environment. The exhibit is designed with an array of engaging experiences, including hands-on interactives, to foster a better understanding of wolves, their behaviors, and why an ecosystem with wolves is a much healthier one than one without them.

Habitat Africa! The Forest recreates the Ituri Forest, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. This naturalistic, outdoor and indoor immersion exhibit showcases incredible animals and shares the stories and experiences of cultural groups that actually live in and near the forest. Covering 3.6 heavily wooded acres, Habitat Africa! The Forest features some 20 species of animals, many new to Brookfield Zoo. Following a winding path under arching trees draped with vines, guests can view okapi, forest buffalo, red river hog, African lungfish, yellow-backed and blue duikers, Lady Ross' turaco, Congo peafowl, African giant millipede, dwarf crocodile, and emperor scorpion.

The Living Coast: A World of Surprising Connections recreates the western coast of South America (Chile and Peru) where the driest desert in the world meets one of the most fertile ocean systems. The exhibit takes guests on an underwater journey (without getting wet!) through the Open Ocean, to the Nearshore Waters, and onto the Rocky Shores. Animals seen along the way include green sea turtles, small sharks and a variety of other fish, Humboldt penguins, vampire bats, Inca terns, chinchillas, and several species of invertebrates. Through various interpretive graphics and fun, educational displays, guests can explore the many fascinating and often surprising connections among the animals (including people), plants, and physical environment. In addition, they'll learn the importance of protecting these relationships and discover how they themselves impact and are impacted by this distant region of the world.

The Swamp: Wonders of Our Wetlands features the mystery and splendor of two unique American ecosystems-a southern cypress swamp and an Illinois river scene. This naturalistic, mixed-species exhibit immerses guests in an environment where they can see the animals that live in wetlands and can appreciate the complex interworkings of these systems. It also demonstrates the many benefits humans derive, directly and indirectly, from natural systems, and encourages people to actively protect the environment. Guests to The Swamp will trek among mist-shrouded cypress and tupelo trees to encounter views revealing many layers of life, including egrets searching the shallows of their watery habitat, water snakes basking on branches, siren salamanders swimming through tangled aquatic plants, and insect-eating mammals burrowing under a leaf-covered bank. Guests can visit an abandoned sawmill offering sanctuary to screech owls and a variety of insects, and an Illinois river system with an underwater view of fish, an alligator snapping turtle, and North American river otters diving and swimming nearby.

Complementing The Swamp is Salt Creek Wilderness, an outdoor area offering guests learning opportunities with engaging educational components that illustrate the interdependence of plants, animals, and humans in local watersheds. It includes Indian Lake, the Ellen Thorne Smith nature trail, and a demonstration wetland called Dragonfly Marsh. Guests can hike along a quarter-mile wood-chipped trail that circles the lake to see trumpeter swans and several other waterfowl species. The lake is also home to native turtles, toads, frogs, dragonflies, raccoons, and an occasional muskrat. At the north end of the lake, the trail is paved and leads onto a wheelchair accessible boardwalk that overlooks Dragonfly Marsh. The area represents a northeastern Illinois wetland and features more than 12,000 individual plants. The three-sided Biodiversity Gallery, located at the end of the boardwalk, has colorful interactives that illustrate the importance of protecting and conserving the natural diversity of the environment.

Tropic World: A Primate's Journey, one of the world's largest indoor mixed-species zoo exhibits, represents the rain-forest regions of South America, Asia, and Africa. Guests walk a pathway overlooking pools and waterfalls to view the animals coexisting amid 50-foot trees. Approximately 100 primates, seven other mammals, and 30 birds are regularly on exhibit. Thunderstorms occur periodically, but the animals are the only ones that get wet.

The Fragile Kingdom draws guests into the exotic worlds of Africa and Asia. Three physically distinct exhibit areas are The Fragile Desert, an indoor African desert scene; The Fragile Rain Forest, an indoor Asian rain-forest scene; and The Fragile Hunters, rocky, outdoor exhibits for lions, Siberian tigers, snow leopards, and Amur leopards. These naturalistic exhibits reveal how a wide variety of living organisms depend on their environment and each other for survival.

Habitat Africa! The Savannah, a naturalistic five-acre savannah exhibit, highlights Africa's diverse wildlife, habitats, and conservation issues to encourage humans to act on behalf of the world's wild places. This immersion exhibit offers an educational, inspirational safari to a waterhole and kopje, a large rocky outcrop, to see animals, including giraffes, zebras, endangered African wild dogs, and a variety of exotic birds and reptiles.

Seven Seas Panorama features a 2,000-seat indoor dolphinarium, complete with tropical plants, a spectacular underwater viewing gallery, and interconnected pools that hold more than one million gallons of saltwater. Outside the dolphinarium, guests can wander naturalistic rocky shores that replicate the Pacific Northwest to watch seals and sea lions.

The Hamill Family Play Zoo
is a unique adventure where children and their families can play and interact with animals, plants, and people in developmentally appropriate settings. The purpose is to help young children, specifically infants to 10-year-olds, develop caring attitudes toward the natural world. In this technological age, where children have frequent exposure to computers and television, the Play Zoo offers captivating experiences that are unique to playing in nature-related settings. Children can touch animals, build habitats, examine animal X-rays, plant gardens, dress up in animal costumes, discover insects, and more!

In Children's Zoo, guests get a close look at domestic animals and wildlife of North America. Animals in Action demonstrations are held in the Children's Zoo Arena from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Inside Feathers and Scales: Bird and Reptiles, creatures scuttle, swim, slither…even spring into flight as guests walk through the exhibit. Water trickles near the preening trumpeter hornbills and a rainbow boa constrictor sleeps under a bed of moss. The exhibit is home to more than 40 species of amphibians, reptiles, and birds, including the South American Guira cuckoo, a loud social bird that stands about 14 inches tall. It is a shaggy-looking bird with brown, white-streaked wings and an orange-rufous crest. In addition, the familiar desert and aquatic bird displays remain unchanged. The center of the exhibit features many reptiles and amphibians such as nonvenomous snakes, a variety of frog species, legless lizards, skinks, tortoises, turtles, and the cold-blooded sungazer. The entire exhibit is washed in an array of magnificent shades, from the tomato frog and indigo snake to the ringed-teal ducks and the white crested turaco with its green chest and blue wings. The micro-climates in Feathers and Scales support a slew of eclectic animals-even a smew (a black and white diving duck), and a Baja blue rock lizard (no doubt a species from California)!

The nocturnal Walkabout exhibit inside Australia House is home to exotic species from the land down under, including wombats and echidnas. Begin the journey with a stop at a research station, just like the real one managed by Brookfield Zoo in Australia. For more than 30 years, the zoo's scientists have been helping local people restore fragile ecosystems---especially those damaged by large sheep farms. Princess parrots, crested pigeons, frilled lizards, and giant walking stick insects are among the animals to be found. Stop to watch a brightly colored emerald tree boa wind around a branch, echidnas nose about in their own dirt pile, and wombats scurrying for their burrow. Free-flying Rodrigues fruit bats soar overhead and pause to hang upside down in true bat fashion. Keeper talks give guests a chance to learn more about these fascinating flying mammals and get a close-up look. Outdoors guests can view emus, which are dun-colored birds native only to Australia and are the second largest bird species in the world. Of course no Australia exhibit would be complete without kangaroos. For a special view of the kangaroo mob, guests can step onto the overlook platform.

Also enjoyable as a botanic garden, Brookfield Zoo includes formal malls and floral displays. More than 35,000 annuals bloom during the summer season.

The zoo's La Gran Cocina offers guests a choice of delicious grilled panini sandwiches, custom-ordered taco salads and burritos, or Connie's pizza. In addition, a variety of grab-and-go items such as freshly made sandwiches and salads, sushi, fresh fruits, and other tasty treats are available. Brookfield Zoo also has five additional restaurants, 11 concession stands, five gift shops, and souvenir stands. Wheelchair, wagon, electronic convenience vehicles, and stroller rentals also are available.

To promote both public education and entertainment year-round, the zoo offers a wide range of education classes and special events. Brookfield Zoo guests who choose to increase their involvement can become zoo members or "adopt" animals through the Parents Program.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which owns the zoo, contributes approximately 28 percent of the gross operating budget. The Society obtains the remaining 72 percent from admission and parking charges, in-park sales, membership fees, grants, and donations. Major improvements in the zoo are paid for by special Forest Preserve District funds, State of Illinois grants, and contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

The zoo is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with special summer hours of 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Indoor animal exhibits close one half hour before the zoo closes.) Guests can tour the zoo via motorized safari rides from late spring through early fall. Admission is $11 for adults and $7 for 64 for children ages 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are free. All-in-One Tickets, which offer discounts on admission to the zoo and attractions, are available in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Car parking is $8; bus parking is $10.75 (a Cook County parking tax is included).

Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo is located at First Avenue and 31st Street in Brookfield, Ill., just 14 miles west of downtown Chicago. The zoo is accessible via the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways, Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and PACE bus service.


For additional information about Brookfield Zoo, visit its Web site at www.BrookfieldZoo.org.

Photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society, Jim Schulz


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