Fall is my very favorite time of the year to visit Fossil Rim! We are members and visit throughout the year, but Fall is always a favorite time for me! This year, with the Covid-19 precautions in place, and online reservations required, it’s really nice because there’s hardly any lines to get in, unlike during the Summer. The cooler temperatures make the animals more active, too, all day long. For me that means I don’t have to get up at 4am for the 8:30am time slot! It’s also breeding season for several of the animals, so that also makes them more active! The big European Red Deer mate from September – late October, and this is when you can hear their deep, rich bugling calls, similar to American Elk, a really spectacular sound! While you do miss out on seeing the babies like you do in Spring, the animals don’t have all the delicious spring grasses to eat, so they are hungrier, too! I also just love all the native Texas animals you see in the Fall, like wild turkeys, white tail deer with beautiful antlers and even jackrabbits! Last, Fossil Rim is just a beautiful piece of Texas, made more beautiful by Fall! Here are a few of my tips for visiting Fossil Rim!
The small town of Glen Rose is where Texas reaches up out of the flat prairie of Fort Worth and greets its guest with scenic vistas and canyons cut by the Brazos River through the ancient limestone. It’s home to Fossil Rim Wildlife Park, an 1,800 acre park where exotic hoofstock such as giraffes, zebras, and wildebeest roam across the stunning terrain of mesquite and juniper.
A drive-through animal safari, Fossil Rim has over 50 different animals from Texas and around the world that visitors can view from their car, or on one of the guided tours. Most of the animals along the route will come running for a treat from the feed bags you can purchase at the front gate. There’s also a Children’s Nature Center, Cafe and Gift Store. In addition, they offer special events such as story time, photography workshops, camps and group events! You can even extend your stay in one of Fossil Rim’s lodging options, although some of these options have been shut down due to Covid-19.
As mentioned, Covid-19 has changed a lot of how Fossil Rim does business. Reservations are now made online, and you can purchase food at the gate. There is a restroom at the entrance, and I really suggest everyone use it for a more comfortable drive-thru experience. You will also receive a map and list of the animals you will see on your self-guided tour.
Fossil Rim’s American Bison herd can also be seen from the front gate. You can get close enough to take a picture, but you are not allowed to feed them. Did you know that American Bison are native to Texas, and there were millions living on the Texas plains? Today the official state herd, which still has genetic lines to the wild bison of Texas, live and can be viewed in Caprock Canyons State Park.
A few tips:
After you begin the tour, you can’t go back so take your time to see everything! There is a passing lane for less patient cars to pass you.
You’ll be given a color identification chart of all the animals at Fossil Rim, and my kids love to mark off each animal as we spot them! Bring a pen!
Conserve your animal food! That first Fallow Deer you meet will be happy to eat the entire bag, but there are plenty of hungry animals along the way, and it makes for a short drive if you can’t feed them all.
The largest antelope species in Africa, the Mountain Bongo is near extinction, with only an estimated 140 in the wild. The AZA is working to increase numbers in the wild by introducing animals bred in the U.S. and Europe.
The Bongos are most active in the morning and at dusk.
My son took this picture during a tour last June. He visited Fossil Rim with the Dallas Zoos Youth Volunteer Program, which has taken trips to Fossil Rim and Dinosaur Valley State Park for the past several years. Through her work volunteering at the Dallas Zoo, my daughter was selected for an internship in Kenya in 2018. Click HERE to read more about the Dallas Zoo’s Volunteer Program.
Fossil Rim also has a terrific volunteer program, for both adults and youth. Please call them at (254) 897-2960 for more information.
The prize for friendliest goes to the abundant Fallow Deer, who will follow you for a treat! This big buck must be the independent type, as he ignored our offers and chose instead to knock acorns out of the tree with his antlers! You just never know what you might see unless you go, and take your time to stop the car and just watch the animals!
Fallow Deer and Black Buck Antelope are common on West Texas game ranches, and escapees from these ranches have thrived in the wild, and created larger and larger herds. There are now so many fallow deer in Garner State Park and South Llano State Park that they have regular hunting seasons because they complete with the native white tail deer for space and food.
These “dino-birds” need love, or at least food, too. They will happily run up to your car, but their long necks are quick to dart inside lowered windows, so we always keep them rolled up when they are nearby! When the kids were small, we had one reach inside the car and grab our entire bag of animal food, and run off with it! We watched as it pranced away, only to be chased by the other ostrich! It’s one of our favorite Fossil Rim memories!
Greater Sandhill Crane
There are always wild turkeys at Fossil Rim, but I’ve never been lucky enough to spot one of the Sandhill Cranes there. My son got this picture last summer! I think this poor bird is a little confused.
The highlight of the trip for us is seeing the giraffes, which will often include a new baby! They are one of the few animals that the park allows you to hand feed!
Usually the giraffes are out in the pasture, and will come right up to your car! During times of inclement weather, the giraffes are put up in their pen, but can still be seen from the road.
I love the zebras, which are very social when hungry, but watch out for their teeth!!
Fossil Rim is the home to 2 different zebra species, the Hartman’s Mountain Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra, both of which are endangered in the wild.
While you can see Grevy’s Zebras in Waco at the Caldwell Zoo, and several private ranches, Fossil Rim is the only place in Texas with the Hartman’s Mountain Zebra.
Grevy’s Zebras were one of the first animals at Fossil Rim to have an Species Survival Plan, and can only be seen during an Adventure Tour.
It’s fun to feed the wildebeest, but one of my favorite moments at Fossil Rim was watching as the wildebeest herd took off running across the fields one day as we were leaving! It’s as close to an African safari as I’ll ever get!
Wildebeest babies in a herd are all born within 2 weeks of each other, to give the babies the best chance at survival. A predator will usually search out the smallest of the animals.
European Red Deer
The biggest deer at Fossil Rim, these amazing animals are similar in appearance to American Elk. Their antlers, which they shed each year, are just nubs in early Spring, covered in Velvet during the summer and they lose them in late fall after mating season, when they often fight with other bucks. During mating season, from September to the end of October, they have a distinct bugle which can be heard for miles, similar to the American Elk.
Unlike horns on a cow or goat, a male deer (buck) will lose their antlers every year, and grow a new set. When the antlers fall off, you’ll see a bloody scab where they once were. In about 3 weeks the new antlers will begin to grow in the scabbed pedicle. This fallow deer has recently lost his antlers.
Fossil Rim has a prolific Cheetah breeding program, with over 175 cubs being born since 1986. You can see the cheetah’s from the tour route, and another cheetah enclosure is located in the Intensive Management Area, which is only accessible during a behind-the-scenes tour.
Another animals that can only be viewed from your car is the Rhino, but considering how BIG these guys are, I’m okay with that!
An adult white rhino can weigh between 7,500 and 10,000 pounds.
Native Texas Animals
In addition to exotic animals from Africa and Asia, you can also see plenty of home-folk, such as white-tail deer, wild turkeys and big jackrabbits!
This buck was more than happy to come right up to the car and get a bite to eat!
Half-way through your tour, you will come up to The Overlook, which houses the Overlook Cafe, Nature Store and Children’s Nature Center! Park your car and stretch your legs!
The Overlook Cafe serves concession stand food, and there are shaded picnic tables for lunch. Due to Covid-19, food at the Overlook is for pick up only.
Children’s Nature Center
Due to Covid-19, the Children’s Nature Center is currently closed.
The Children’s Nature Center allows you to get VERY up close with some of Fossil Rim’s residents, like giant tortoises, goats, and this emu!
Buy Fossil Rim souvenirs at the Nature Store! In 2014, a fire destroyed the gift shop, and this new one was built and opened in 2015.
Fossil Rim offers several different tours for the entire family! We’ve done the family tour several times, and it’s a great way to learn SO much more about Fossil Rim and it’s animals, as well as hear some great stories!
Tours should be booked at least 3 days in advance.
Know Before You Go
- Fill’er up in Glen Rose, surrounded by wild animals is no place to run out of gas!
- Outside food and drinks are allowed. We always take an ice chest with water, even if we intend to eat at the Overlook Cafe.
- Plan to stay about 3-4 hours, longer if you are stopping to eat lunch.
- Encourage everyone to use the restroom at the front gate, before you leave on your tour.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Although the animals will come right up to your car, pack a pair of binoculars to see other animals. The kids will love using them!
- Convertibles are allowed, and guest can ride in the back of pick-up trucks during the tour, however Jeeps without doors or full soft-sided doors are not allowed.
More To Do in Glen Rose
Dinosaur World is a terrific place for your little paleontologist! Life-sized dinosaurs inhabit the forest of Dinosaur World, which you can view from a mile long walking path, but that’s just the beginning of all the fun.
Canoe or Tube the Brazos River! Canoe and tube rentals, as well as shuttles to the river, are available from Rhodes Canoe Rentals, Cash only. Hwy 67 E, Glen Rose
Storiebook Cafe has a great kids play area, good food and walls covered in books!
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
2229 County Road 2008, Glen Rose
Click HERE to visit their website.
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