What possesses one family to create an exotic wildlife park in the middle of The Waterpark Capital of the World!®? Or scientists to set up a foundation where you can see all 15 species of crane, from the largest population to the most endangered? Or locals to create a park where you can hand-feed deer?
Magnetism of the creatures is only part of the answer.
At Timbavati Wildlife Park, the stunning wildlife murals on the exterior of the park are the tip-off to the encounter inside. Just past the front gate, the soothing sound of a waterfall greets visitors, providing a nice counterpoint to the screeches of the birds and animals, more than 60 species in all and growing. Owner Mark Schoebel is ever enthusiastic when describing the 15-acre park with its menagerie of inhabitants that includes red kangaroos, tawny eagles, camels and big cats. He said his family hasbeen in the animal entertainment business since the 1950s, and credits his wife Alice with caring for the newborn animals, a 24/7 job. When visiting, be sure to visit the giraffe area, where you can actually feed the long-limbed, long-necked animals by hand. For a bit of nostalgia, ride the Safari Train – it’s actually Engine #9 salvaged from the Old Fort Dells attraction and beautifully refitted to the grounds of Timbavati Wildlife Park.
Wisconsin Deer Park dates back to 1952, making it one of Wisconsin Dells’ classic attractions. It’s operated by the grandson of founder Russ Tollaksen. This 40-acre plot provides a family-friendly hiatus from all the hustle and bustle of the Dells and takesyou to a simpler time. You can feed white tail deer from your hand and see American elk and bison. Best times to visit for photo opps? May to middle June when fawns are born almost every day, and August when the bucks are sporting their velvet covered antlers.
You can classify this next place as exotic. It’s the International Crane Foundation on the outskirts of the Dells. The 225-acre world headquarters hosts a captive flock of approximately 100 cranes, and is the only place in the world that you can see all 15 species of cranes. The campus offers live crane exhibits, an interactive education center, guided and self-guided tours, a research library, visitor center and over four miles of nature trails set among 100 acres of restored tall grass prairie, oak savanna and wetlands.
Did You Know: To prevent cranes from imprinting on humans and to prepare the birds for life in the wild, researchers caring for the young whooping cranes wear full-length crane costumes.
Circus World, in nearby Baraboo, was the home to The Ringling Bros. Circus from 1884 thru 1918 and continues to bring the circus to life with big top shows featuring skilled acrobats, horses, jugglers, dogs, clowns, aerialists and elephants. Watch as a black Celebes Ape steals the show, appearing alongside the Rhesus monkeys in Zoppe's Comedy Monkey Revue. Enjoy a thrill as you ride upon a real circus elephant.
Finally, for a little horseback riding or a wagon ride, try Woodside Ranch with 1,400acres of trails and more than 100 horses in every size, from pony to Percheron. It’s located close-by in Mauston. There’s also Red Ridge Ranch Riding Stable with a Mauston address and Canyon Creek Riding Stables in the Dells for short trail rides led by experienced guides.