First, let me preface this blog by saying I wrote this in January for a February posting, but decided to hold off after the news broke that three of the animals got sick and two of them even died. Since then, it has been confirmed that their food source had been tainted. From what I’ve read they are still trying to figure out exactly how it happened and how to prevent it from ever occurring again. I want to respect this truly unfortunate tragedy by putting this awesome place in the positive spotlight it deserves by sharing it with you.
In January we took a family trip to Animal Ark, an animal sanctuary located about 25 miles north of downtown Reno. Normally they are open April – November, but they were having some special winter hours. Since the weather was unseasonably warm we decided to venture out there to see the animals. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was totally surprised and impressed once we got there!
We took Hwy. 395 north out of Reno and into the North Valleys. From there we exited Red Rock and turned right at the bottom of the exit ramp. This road winds around for quite a while (almost 12 miles) until you reach Deerlodge Road, a gravel road about a mile long. At the end you’ll see the entrance/sign for Animal Ark.
When I got out of the car I immediately noticed that we had climbed in elevation, although I didn’t notice it as we were driving. The Animal Ark is nestled in the mountainside and the views are beautiful. On the day we were there we had a classic Nevada sky – gorgeous blue with puffy white clouds. Almost instantly my son and daughter noticed the playground next to the parking lot and while I went inside to get tickets the kids went to the playground. It’s a nice playground too and I believe it is shaded in summer. It also accommodates picnics. Inside the ticket station is also a visitor shop, which we browsed through after our visit. I had brought along a backpack and a stroller for my 18-month-old daughter because I didn’t know which one would be better. I knew that the path we were going to walk was gravel, so I brought both in case. However, the Animal Ark offers Radio Flyer wagons with “off-road” tires for rent so I got one of those instead. It came in handy and was a great way for my daughter to travel, my son hopped in a few times as well. They also offer golf carts for guests that need assistance.
Keep in mind Animal Ark is not big. Everything is pretty close together, so it’s not like visiting a zoo where you have tons of walking to do; however, it is hilly (remember it’s on a mountainside) and the path is a hard-packed gravel. I loved that Animal Ark keeps the path and surroundings as natural as possible. The animals are really in nature and you become part of it. Also, the way they implemented their fencing makes you feel like you are right there with them. Keep in mind the animals at the Ark have been rescued due to injury or other factors and are not able to be released to the wild for one reason or another, so the types of animals they have is not as broad as you would see at a zoo, but nonetheless amazing. There are lots of big cats including tigers, mountain lions, a jaguar, cheetahs, bobcats and lynx. There are bears and tortoises (they were hibernating) as well as coyotes and wolves and several different types of foxes. There are a few birds including two different types of owls. There’s also a badger and raccoon.
Koda, an Artic Fox, is a crowd pleaser. He’s like watching a puppy with his boundless energy. He puts on a show without even knowing it. I loved the mountain lions, Milo & Daniel, and El Santa, the jaguar, has the most gorgeous coat. Lisa and Theresa, the red foxes, were also beautiful and Cordelia, the Great-horned Owl was impressive. One thing that surprised me was Moyo and Jamar, the resident Cheetahs, and the sound of them “meowing” at us. It was weird hearing something so sweet come out of something with such a menacing face.
Each stop along the way was fantastic. The animals were up close and enjoying the warm sunshine in the middle of winter. They all have a name and a story and it makes the journey around the property even more of an experience knowing their background. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the staff as well. They are roaming and available and their wealth of knowledge and friendliness made me feel like I was at someone’s home visiting their pets. I don’t know if the trip could have been any better. I highly recommend visiting. You will fall in love with these animals and I’m sure you’ll walk away with more than one favorite. Please visit their website Animal Ark for more information.