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Exploring Moose Jaw’s Abandoned Zoo

Exploring Moose Jaw’s Abandoned Zoo

· 6 min. read

Before you read this article and freak out over the amount of snow you're about to see, I want to clarify that I took these pictures last March. Moose Jaw had a lot more snow than they do at the time of publishing this. I just postponed the article to prevent you from any winter PTSD during the summer months.

The Moose Jaw Wild Animal Park opened in 1929 as a 540-acre zoo. It contained over 200 types of animals from across Canada and the northwestern United States. For almost eighty years the zoo was in operation, educating visitors on different animals and environmental preservation. It started with bison, bears and wolves, and eventually expanded to include more exotic animals such as lions. It was difficult to get numbers, but it had an average attendance of almost a million people per year.

All this ended in 1995 when the zoo failed to gain the necessary liability insurance. On September 28, 1995, the Environment and Resource Management shut down the zoo. In 1997 the zoo's property was sold to the City of Moose Jaw for $1, with the provincial government providing a $50,000 grant to restore the area.

To this day, the quality of that restoration has been controversial.

The former zoo can be accessed in a variety of different ways, but my girlfriend Jessica and I entered it from 9th Avenue Southwest, on the south side of the city. It's listed on Google Maps as "MJ Animal Park", with Tatawaw Park right below it. "Tatawaw Park" is the new proposed name for the park, which is Cree for "there is room, you are welcome".

Bridge to MJ Animal ParkCrossing bridge to park

If you enter the zoo from this side, you'll have to walk down a steep hill to arrive at a bridge. Because we did this in the winter, the hill was easy to go down, but exhausting to go back up.

Judging from maps I found of the area, I believe we entered the park from the original entrance, with the plateau near the top of the hill being the former parking lot. It was impossible to be certain, especially with everything covered in snow.

In the summer the park is probably full of green trees and grass, but in the winter, all the trees are dead, black and twisted. Any green that once existed had died off or is covered in a blanket of snow.

Trees and snow

After a bit of walking, we found the former gate to the zoo. It was battered, bent and broken, but it shows the pride of what the zoo once was. Nearby was a graffiti-covered sign owned by the City of Moose Jaw. Very little of the sign can be read under a layer of profanity and paint. I've seen pictures of the sign online though, and I knew it warned visitors to proceed at their own risk.

Entrance to zooSign from the city

Once inside the zoo we found a smattering of buildings, each gutted and left to rot. I assumed they were once bathrooms judging by their layout, but the only running water was the dripping snow from the caved-in ceilings. Every inch of the walls was covered in graffiti and the floor was littered with foam, wood, grass and garbage.

Outside of abandoned buildingInside of abandoned buildingInside of abandoned buildingInside of abandoned buildingInside of abandoned building

While I explored more abandoned buildings, Jessica walked up the road to see how far the zoo went.

I found one building that looked like it was once an exhibit, but the walls and ceiling had been dismantled. All that was left was a concrete base of the building, showing hallways, walls and rooms.

Stone base of former building

Unfortunately, the rest of the buildings I found were locked up. It appears other graffiti artists were equally as disappointed and vandalised the outside of the buildings with faces, curses and signatures.

Grafetti covered buildingFormer power-box

I came across a few broken signs, power-boxes and picnic tables, but beyond that, there wasn't much left of the Moose Jaw Wild Animal Park. I caught up with Jess and we walked to where the zoo breaks off into more "established" parks and headed back.

Walking around zooPath of the zoo lined with treesWalking trails

On our way out of the zoo, we stumbled upon a few domesticated dalmatians running around with their owners. These and a few other dogs were the only animals we saw in the former "animal park".

The former Moose Jaw Wild Animal Park was disappointed in the winter but would probably nice to explore again in the summer.

Valley walls around zoo

My parents told me I went to the zoo when it was still in operation, but I was too young to remember. Have you ever been to the zoo? Have you been to it since it closed? Let me know in the comments below.

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Exploring Moose Jaw's Abandoned ZooExploring Moose Jaw's Abandoned Zoo

Categories: Canada, Dark Tourism, Saskatchewan

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