Kids mix it up with water weasels

Zoo's new see-thru water tube is otter-ly awesome

Eureka's Sequoia Park Zoo, the largest accredited zoo between San Francisco and Portland, opened its most ambitious exhibit ever in 2014, the Watershed Heroes Project.

The family-friendly exhibit starts with a watershed play area, where children can explore a real watershed and learn about salmon. Next visitors encounter a dramatic waterfall that recreates the natural cascades salmon must navigate to travel upstream and spawn. Overhead will be a tumble of logs that creates a shelter over the “streambed” walkway, while clear walls on either side give visitors an intimate view into the underwater life of salmon and otters. 

Perhaps best of all, a see-thru tube allows kids, and adventuresome grownups, to crawl into the heart of the water world, where they can interact with the otters as they swim all around them. The otter feedings at noon and 3 PM are excellent times to do the tube, as the playful water weasels are most active then.

These aquaria enable visitors to see otters playing on one side, and on the other salmon feeding or guarding their nests, all demonstrating the role salmon play in the North Coast environment. The entire exhibit is a living example of a healthy watershed, where visitors can learn how everything is interconnected – and how they can help protect this fragile ecology.

At the far end of the exhibit, visitors will enter the Bald Eagle aviary, slated to open in October. It will provide a permanent home for injured birds that can no longer fly, within a natural setting on the edge of the redwood forest. A magnificent redwood tree inside the aviary will serve as a focal point where visitors can step inside their habitat for close-up views of these magnificent birds.  

Natural features such as logs, snags, and boulders will provide a variety of perching and roosting areas for the eagles, and a pool will give these water-loving birds the opportunity to bathe and forage in the water – enabling them to engage in a full range of natural behaviors.

Established in 1907, Sequoia Park Zoo is the oldest zoo in California. Situated next to the magnificent old-growth redwoods of Sequoia Park, the zoo includes rare red pandas, gibbons and spider monkeys, flamingos and bush dogs, yaks and exotic birds, as well as sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, donkeys and llamas in a hands-on petting barnyard.