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Sally and Levi had their first “grand” adventure last Saturday! We went on a trip to The Wilds, not to drop off two young grandchildren, but for a visit to the largest conservation education facility in North America.

The Wilds is located about 30 miles North of Marietta, at exit 28 (Belle Valley) and 18 miles back in the rolling woodlands of rural Ohio. In October, the hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. We stayed at Caldwell, Ohio, on Friday evening to break up the trip for young adventurers.

We were on the road on Saturday morning, following the signs. It seemed so different from our area, because the forest came close to the road and houses were not visible.

We arrived at the parking area, gathered up necessary items and loaded up on a shuttle bus for the visitor center where we purchased tickets. My ticket was $17 and Sally and Levi’s admission was free. We boarded the first shuttle bus. This was fun, because there was a group of students from Marietta College who charmed my young companions. Each shuttle bus driver was also our guide.

We saw camels, giraffes, rhinos, bison, antelope, elk, wild horses, zebra, cheetah, African dogs, camel, swans, and others. We learned that the bison’s large neck ring is a muscle, because their heads are so heavy. The zebra’s stripes go from their hooves to their mane.

There are no lions or tigers on the grounds. Sally was most impressed by a mid-size carnivore conservation center, like a small hospital. When we were back at home, she gathered up her animal toys and was doing pretend emergency care.

The Wilds was incorporated in 1984 on reclaimed land donated by Appalachian Power. Our guide told us that, before the reconstruction, the area looked like the surface of the moon. Now it is 10,000 acres of grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and lakes.

The first endangered animals were released in 1992. There are 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking, and 100 lakes and ponds for freshwater fishing. From the beginning, it has been a place for conservation, science and education programs. There are 37 conservation and science programs, in conjunction with Ohio State University and Columbus Zoo.

The Wilds is an exciting program that is between a zoo and the native open range of animals that might become extinct. For information, call 740-638-5030 or visit

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