Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden



 Since opening in April 1974, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has become one of the most successful mid-sized zoos in the United States, winning awards for exhibit design and animal conservation efforts. Original features included the moated exhibits for cats, bears, giraffes and rhinos, exhibits for small mammals and the 22,000-square-foot Ecosystem Birdhouse. My oh my, how it has grown!

Riverbanks, located at Columbia, SC, attracts more than 1.2 million visitors annually. That’s more than the population of Columbia Metropolitan area which is home to about 810,000 souls. It’s an easy 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive from cities such as Savannah, Charleston, Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, and Myrtle Beach.

In the early 1960s, some local businessmen conceived the idea of a small community zoo for children. The initial effort was doomed, but the idea didn’t die. In 1969 the South Carolina General Assembly created the Rich-Lex Riverbanks Park Special Purpose District governed by a seven-member commission. By doing so, two counties joined the city of Columbia in the project. Approximately 100 acres of land on the Saluda River outside the city limits were leased to the commission by South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) for 99 years at $1.00 per year.

The property is also the site of several interesting historical landmarks and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Points of interest date back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the War for Southern Independence.

Construction of Riverbanks Botanical Garden began in 1994 and opened in the summer of 1995. It’s connected to the zoo by an 800-foot-long bridge over the scenic Saluda River. The Garden includes a large visitor center, a formal walled garden, an antique rose garden, an education center and a half-mile long nature trail along the riverbank. Visitors may access the Garden by walking or taking a motorized tram.

A recent addition is a modest water park adjacent to the Botanical Garden. Together with the zoo, Riverbanks is a great place to spend a day.

Follow along to see what grows behind the garden wall.

Edgeworthia chrysantha (foreground)

Crapemyrtle allee

Mixed bulb, annual, perennial planting

Hyacinthoides hispanica

Riverbanks Botanical Garden View

Riverbanks Botanical Garden View

Stauntonia hexaphylla

Bignonia capreolata

Rose arbor

Return to goGardenNow.com.

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