Oregon Zoo. Zoo in Portland, Oregon

Oregon Zoo

Zoo in Portland, Oregon

Lizard Pair Photo © Richard Griffin

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Oregon Zoo

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Flamingo Head - Oregon Zoo
Flamingo Head - Oregon Zoo. Photo by Richard Griffin
Established in 1888, the Oregon Zoo is the oldest animal park west of the Mississippi. It is located in the vast green expanse that is Washington Park Portland, just a few minutes to the west of Downtown Portland, Oregon. This 64-acre zoo is the one of the largest and most popular attractions in the entire state, attracting more than 1.6 million visitors per year. It is home to more than 1,900 individual animals from over 230 species and also features extensive plant collections within both the animal exhibits and the specialized landscaped gardens. Oregon Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and manages so-called species survival programs for 21 endangered or threatened species, such as African lions, Asian elephants and California condors.

The zoo boasts many attractions and rides, and organizes year-round events. ZooLights in winter are a classic holiday light display, while the Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series attracts crowds in summer. Another hit is the Washington Park and Zoo Railway, a narrow-gauge railroad that connects the zoo with the International Rose Test Garden.

Green Lizard - Oregon
Green Lizard - Oregon Zoo. Photo by Richard Griffin


The story of Oregon Zoo begins with a man from England named Richard Knight. A former seaman, he moved to Portland and set up a pharmacy in 1882, which somehow became a place where sailors could leave the animals they’d collected during their travels. The back of his pharmacy became the home of parakeets, monkeys and some other small animals. A brown bear and a grizzly bear were housed in an area next door.

Later on, in 1888, the two bears were displayed in circus cages in what now is Washington Park Portland. This was the start of Portland Zoo – later renamed Oregon Zoo. By 1894, the zoo’s collection already consisted of 300 animals. Over the course of the following decades the zoo moved locations a few times and expanded tremendously.


The Oregon Zoo features about 25 different animal exhibitions, showcasing animals from all habitats of the world. The exhibits are grouped into five geographical areas.

Great Northwest

The Great Northwest is home to wildlife that can be found in the northwestern states. Exhibits include Black Bear Ridge, Cougar Crossing, Eagle Canyon, Cascade Crest and Condors of the Columbia.

Pacific Shores

Tiger, Oregon Zoo -
	Oregon Zoo
Tiger, Oregon Zoo - Oregon Zoo. Photo by brx0
Pacific Shores houses animals that live on the Pacific coast of both North America and South America. Great exhibits include Polar Bears, Penguins, Steller Cove and Tigers and Leopards.

Fragile Forests

The Fragile Forests section of Oregon Zoo is the home of apes and monkeys. The two main exhibits are the Amazon Flooded Forest and the Red Ape Reserve.


By far the largest geographical area in Oregon Zoo, the Africa section is home to all high-profile African wildlife. The Africa Rainforest houses crocodiles, porcupines, flamingos and monkeys. Lions, cheetahs, African wild dogs, rock pythons and other carnivores can be seen in the Predators of the Serengeti exhibitions. The Africa Savanna is home to rhinos, giraffes, monkeys and hippos.


Sun Bears, the Island Pigs of Asia and Asian Elephants are the three exhibits in the Asia section of the zoo. The herd of eight Asian elephants is arguably the main highlight of the entire zoo.

Other Attractions and Events

Every season the zoo organizes special events, from the Howloween’s trick-or-treating in fall and the magical ZooLights in winter to the Rabbit Romp egg hunt in spring and the Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series in summer.

One of the most popular attractions – especially among children – is the narrow-gauge Washington Park and Zoo Railway, which connects the zoo with other attractions in Washington Park. In addition to transporting people, this railroad also still transport U.S. mail.

Visiting Oregon Zoo

The zoo is open every day of the year, except on Christmas Day. Hours vary according to the seasons, but generally the zoo is open between 9am and 4pm. In winter it opens at 10am; in summer it stays opens until 6pm.

Tickets cost $11.50 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8.50 for children between 3 and 18. Children younger than 2 can visit for free. On the second Tuesday of every month, admission is $4 for everyone, except for young children who can still enter without admission-free.

How to Get There

The Oregon Zoo is served by the Blue and Red lines of the MAX, Portland’s light rail network. The Washington Park MAX station is also near other attractions in Washington Park. The TriMet bus 63 runs from Downtown Portland to Washington Park as well, stopping near the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden and the Oregon Zoo. Because it is located only about two miles west from the city center, the park and zoo can also be reached on foot or by bicycle.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Washington Park Portland is home to a few other wonderful public green areas, including the Portland Japanese Garden, the International Rose Test Garden and the Hoyt Arboretum.

Renowned and visit-worthy zoos elsewhere in the world include Taronga Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and London Zoo.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 25, 2015

Pictures of Oregon Zoo

Tiger, Oregon Zoo - Oregon Zoo
Tiger, Oregon Zoo - Photo by brx0


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