Arizona’s Immersive Drive-Thru Zoo Experience
By Lauren Wong
Right in the heart of Northern Arizona in Williams, sits this 160-acre zoo that’s part drive-thru, part walk-thru. Located among the Kaibab National Forest, you’ll drive over three miles within the Ponderosa Pine Forest. Throughout the drive you’ll pass through several exhibits, getting the opportunity to see some North American animals going about their day in natural habitats.
I have to say, this is one of my favorite activities I’ve done so far in Arizona. I’ve never gotten the chance to be so close with these animals, let alone a bear. They wander up to your windows, cross over in the streets right in front of you, and you can watch as they interact with each other, as stunning, massive, pine trees create the perfect backdrop.
You can even leave your windows down as you drive past the animals (except for the bears and wolves). At first I was disappointed that the day I chose to go was all rainy and foggy, but it ended up creating this misty, eerie, background for my photos. And, I ended the day seeing a vast rainbow spread across the cloudy sky, with all its dazzling colors.
During the drive-thru portion you’ll get to see Rocky Mountain Goats, Reindeer, Pronghorn, Coues Deer, Mule Deer, American Burro, Alaskan Tundra Wolves, Arctic Wolves, Jr. Black Bears, White Bison, American Bison, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, and Black Bears.
In their Fort Bearizona Walk-Thru Area they have Otters, a Jaguar, Elk, and Grizzly Bears just to name a few.
They run a variety of shows throughout the day that are free with your general admission ticket ($25 – $35). You can get up close with these wild animals, and when you’re in need of a break and refresher, they have their Canyonlands Restaurant and Bearizona Grille. The zoo is open seven days a week!
When planning your visit, try to get there around the times the animals are most active. During the summer, it’s in the early morning and late afternoon. In the winter, they’re typically active most of the day.
Now, for a look behind the scenes, what is Bearizona all about? With over 50% of their animals being rescues, they’re a for profit for good company, a member of the Zoological Association, and a member of the American Association of Zookeepers. Their mission is to “promote conservation and prevention through memorable and educational encounters with North American Wildlife in a natural environment.”
Being a privately owned company, Bearizona receives no tax dollars, so your visit and purchases are what keep the zoo able to continue to care for their animals and educate the public on conservation efforts.
In alignment with their conservation values, they promote being “sensibly green,” by taking actions throughout the park that’ll make a lasting impact. They collect rainwater for irrigation, and have recycled over 200,000 tons of scrap metal and steel. They’ve used these materials to create the foundation of their waterfalls and man-made rock sculptures. And, what I personally think is the biggest thing, they make this home for orphaned and confiscated wildlife.