A River Tale: Immerse Yourself in the Newest Phase of Edmonton’s Valley Zoo

A River Tale: Immerse Yourself in the Newest Phase of Edmonton’s Valley Zoo

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is no stranger to animals of all shapes, colors and sizes; and with the second phase of their revitalization plan completed, the City of Edmonton is hoping people of all shapes, colors and sizes won’t be strangers either.

On July 11, the Zoo officially opened the Entry and Wander. Accessible to the general public as well as paying zoo patrons, the entry plaza allows for access to the Education Centre, the Zoo-tique, Wild Earth Café, and river otter exhibit independent of zoo operational hours and without admission being paid.

Past the admission gates is the new central corridor of the zoo – the Wander – which connects visitors to exhibits. Along the way, the Wander takes visitors on the journey of the North Saskatchewan River. Visitors begin their travels at the great heights of the Rocky Mountains before falling swiftly from stone-filled mountain streams and pools, through wetlands and cobbled rivulets, to the gentle meanders of the Aspen Parkland’s and prairies of Alberta.

The Wander has been designed to provide learning through experiential play, as landscape elements, planting, and interpretive signage tell the story of the North Saskatchewan River. Kids can climb on a glacier, run and explore through a maze of rocks, splash in wetland pools, and experience the world from inside a beaver dam. The Wander terminates at the entry plaza, where a sturgeon-themed interactive water play feature is a popular spot for young and old on hot summer days.

Major zoo exhibits such as Arctic Shores and the African Veldt connect to the Wander, and it provides a new primary circulation route for the Zoo. Upon arrival to the new Zoo entrance, visitors are guided up the gentle meanders of the Wander, enticing them to visit all the interesting exhibits the zoo has to offer.

Perhaps one of the most notable features of the project is the rammed earth wall at the Zoo’s entrance. Designed to mirror the colored layers of the North Saskatchewan River banks, the wall is approximately 72 metres long and is the first of its kind to be used in a cold climate exterior.

As the primary means for guiding visitors throughout the site, the new Entry and Wander are important anchors to the Zoo’s revitalization. Starting from the moment one arrives on site extending up to the top of the Wander journey, the experience is designed to be meaningful, educational, and to actively engage visitors in discovery.

“The Valley Zoo experience has been completely redefined,” say project architect Stephen Boyd. “From the moment visitors arrive they should expect to become immersed in the story of the North Saskatchewan, creating a heightened understanding of where they are.”

Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson who spoke at the opening ceremony was impressed by the outcome and affirmed the Zoo’s vision is headed in the right direction. “This is public money well spent; this builds a stronger city. It was a very difficult decision against all other priorities to allocate the funds that we did but, holy smokes, it was worth it when you look at it.”

Learn more about the Valley Zoo here.

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