How places come to be is always interesting to me. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo definitely has a history! First there was a park formed by the city of Omaha through condemnation proceedings on area properties in 1894. Over 100 hilly wooded acres were set aside for what officially became Riverview Park Zoo. In a short span of only four years, 120 animals were park residents.
In 1916, the park added another feature as the Riverview Pool quickly became a place for refreshment in Omaha. For about 34 years, the pool was open to patrons. Then the polio epidemic began and going out in public areas scared families away. Covered over in 1944, the pool was almost forgotten.
Unfortunately the story behind the pool is gradually fading away. Hopefully they will fix this, so that patrons can continue to appreciate the past life of the pool.
Around 1970 the buried pool was given a new life. Mentioning to the caretaker his plans for a sea lion pool, the current Henry Doorly Zoo director was startled to learn a bit of history that had been set aside. Rather than building a new swimming area, the caretaker suggested that he simply unearth the pool that was already there. This once enjoyed pool became a new home for the sea lions.
The sea lion pool in 2014.
Despite what my children think, I was not around when this happened. While I do remember loving watching the sea lions frolic and play in the pool when I was a child, this process was before my time. Exactly how much of the original pool remains is a bit of a mystery, but the pools are definitely on the same site. I appreciate the fact that they are trying to preserve parts of Omaha history.
A special thank you to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo for their assistance in this story. All other references that I used can be clicked on above. To learn more about early Omaha parks, you can read the Nebraska Historical Society’s PDF on the History of Omaha Parks & Rec. Sometime later this summer I will be doing a longer feature post on Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. This zoo is definitely one of our family’s favorite places to visit!
P.S. I have recently been honored to join a Midwest Travel Bloggers Group. The topic of the month just happened to be zoos. To learn about more great zoos across the Midwest United States, here is what you need to do. First, read this excellent post about the Walking Tourist’s Camel Ride at the Kansas City Zoo. At the bottom, links are included to all of the other June posts about zoos. This is great way to find out about other wonderful travel bloggers, as well other zoos around this area of the United States!