A Glimpse of Zoo History: The Pond

If you’ve been to our little Zoo, you are probably well aware of our beautiful centerpiece – the pond! It has been transformed quite a bit over the years, and some may even remember the ark and the whale that used to call the pond their home, which were both installed in 1969.

The Ark – which displayed small animals (1996)


Jonah and the Whale, with an aquarium inside. This exhibit was crushed by a tree when a tornado hit the Zoo in 1982.

Since the Zoo has become more focused on conservation and the care and maintenance of our wildlife – the pond has become more of a mini-ecosystem for native birds, fish, amphibians, invertebrates, plants and even mammals. Some animals seen using our pond are; frogs and toads, herons and egrets, kingfishers, pike, bass, catfish, bluegill, mallards, buffleheads, wood ducks, muskrats, dragonflies, and many more. You’ve probably noticed our domestic free-range ducks, Claude, Wolfgang and Johann, rely on our pond as well. Our pond has served as an excellent home, refuge or rest stop for many. In the winter months, we also keep underwater bubblers going to provide fresh, moving water that doesn’t freeze over to the waterfowl. We even installed agricultural-grade pumps to efficiently move and filter our pond and waterfall.


ducks in pond


We’ve even used the pond as environmental enrichment for our resident animals!

Something that we always try to manage on the pond (and all other areas of the Zoo) are invasive species. Phragmites have always been something that we’ve battled, and is one of the most prevalent invasive species we have here in Michigan. And recently, an invasive lotus flower took over the pond. Although beautiful, it was detrimental to the ecosystem of our pond and wildlife that use it.

Lotus invasion on the pond, 2019


Cleaning Lotus
Staff member Sarah N. removing some of the lotus, Summer 2019


lotus 2
The beautiful but incredibly invasive flower of the lotus plant.


As soon as we realized we had a problem, we started taking steps to rid the pond of the lotus and finally wipe out the last of the phragmites. With the hard work of our grounds crew and a hired aquatic plants management team, we defeated the lotus and phragmites to provide an open, happily managed pond to our native and resident animals again. Removing them was a physical effort as well as a chemical application that was effective yet safe for all our wildlife in and on the water. We also made sure to keep our beautiful patches of native lily pads.

woobly bridge
Guests enjoying our “Wobbly Bridge” in Summer 2020


Another great piece of our pond is the Underwater Viewing Cave. Below the pond boardwalk, is a walkway that leads to an underwater “cave” with viewing windows to see our plants and fish below the surface with cool educational displays.

Whether you like the Pond for the beauty it brings to our Zoo, the wildlife it serves, the history it holds, or our famous waterfall that feeds it, we can all agree that the Pond is the heart of our lush, colorful landscape right in the center of the Zoo.



pond overview