Just about every Spring I take a 24-hour hiatus from my crazy, busy schedule to drive from Dallas to Glen Rose, Texas.
It’s in that quaint, little fossil of a town that I can find complete happiness away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Secured away, off an asphalt Texas road is a beautiful entry into what I can only describe as a trip into a mythical forest; one that is part Serengeti and the other a scene from Disney’s Bambi but in real life.
I always look forward to my visit to this wonderful and underappreciated place called Fossil Rim Wildlife Park.
Since 1987, this not-for-profit has focused its’ efforts on restoring and protecting native and exotic animals from Texas and around the globe.
It was in the late 1990’s that I discovered this enchanting place, collecting memories that will forever be etched into my brain cells.
I’ve taken so many photos over the years that I have filled numerous photo albums, CD’s and flash drives that have taken residence in every drawer in my house.
I have even made a video to share with friends, family and now you! But let me tell you, pictures just don’t do this place any justice.
Not only do you get some once in a lifetime selfie opportunities from within the safety of your vehicle you will also get within arm’s reach of giraffe’s, ostriches, waterbucks, gazelle, emus, zebras and at least four types of deer to name a few.
Don’t feel disappointed if you are thinking that you won’t have a chance to get out of your vehicle and hang with some real animals, I promise I will get to that in just a moment.
I initially started out with just purchasing a couple of bags of animal feed to go with the 7.2-mile long, scenic wildlife, self-guided tour.
The self-guided tour allowed me to drive my own truck through the park giving me ample time to pull over and take great snapshots.
The bagged animal feed was obviously not for me to munch on but is the only food you are allowed to feed most of the animals throughout the park.
Along with the tour purchase, I would receive this really nice, colorful, keepsake brochure that listed all of the different types of animals I would see throughout the park.
Included in this brochure were some great photos of each of the park’s animals so that I knew which animals to expect.
If you choose to go on one of the self-guided tours then be sure to check out the Pre-Fossil Rim Self-Guided Tour Checklist of what you should have with you before you begin your park tour.
BONUS TIP: Be sure to take a restroom break at the main office building right before you go out on your tour.
Beginning the Self-Guided Tour
Once you have placed your tour receipt on your driver side dashboard as instructed by the main office, you will drive over some cattle guards as you enter the Jurassic Park style gates.
Don’t freak out about the guards ruining your tires, they won’t.
Those guards are necessary to keep the animals from venturing out of the park.
Moving along, you will probably be greeted by some fun, rambunctious and almost alien looking Ostriches.
I can’t help but have flashbacks of playing the 80’s arcade game classic Joust every time I see these humorous creatures.
Just be sure that you have secured any and all loose items (lighters, cell phones, cords, human food, drinks, etc..) before you roll your windows down.
These birds are like ninjas, stretching out their long necks in your vehicle quicker than you can blink.
They don’t have teeth but their beaks are pretty sharp and they have kung-fu grips so don’t try to hand feed them!
Once you get past the fastest bird on land (no kidding) you will start to truly feel like you are in Africa.
As you drive on the loose gravel road you’ll begin to see some Mountain Bongo and possibly some Roan Antelope.
Making your way around the bends you should come across some Wildebeest that will surely make you say “Ooooo, wow!”
TIP: I have always found it best to start a self-guided tour by 9:00 am cause most of the animals will be out and about looking for food.
Just shake your brown paper feed bag out your window and the animals will start coming your way.
As you continue on your dirt road adventure there will be many other exotic animals to see like the Greater Kudu.
Don’t get fixated on just looking around for exotic animals.
Be sure to pay attention to all the variations of trees and plants out there.
This place is a photographer’s paradise on so many levels.
About halfway through the first phase of the road tour, there is a “pit stop”, leg stretching, and GrubHub paradise at the top of one of the highest points of the entire park.
I always refresh and reload myself at this halfway point knowing that there are no chances to leave your vehicle while on the self-guided, driving portion of the tour.
Perfectly nestled atop hills made of limestone is a small leap back into city life but with a conservationist theme.
A nicely paved parking lot acts as the fulcrum point to clean bathrooms, picnic tables, a hiking trail and three of the parks ground activities.
Children and the young at heart can enter this educational and hands-on facility for FREE. You will experience an opportunity to brush a goat, talk to some cockatoos, or take some pics of the many other interesting animals they have there.
You can walk around this small but stimulating self-contained park, surrounded by cozy, habitational pens.
I swear that crazy little goat always seems to be plotting a way to open exhibit gate doors when she’s not working a crowd for a good back rub.
I am all about visiting “Einstein” the resident Emu to see if I will be lucky enough to find one of his silky feathers lying on the ground that will become part of my shrine to Fossil Rim.
If petting barnyard animals or attempting to have a dialog with a macaw doesn’t interest
you try checking out the gift shop that is just yards away.
In fact, whenever I’m done getting my fix of “barnyard selfies”, I make a beeline from the handwashing station (just outside the main doors of the children’s animal center) over to the Nature Store.
I love when I walk into this shop to always find an eclectic and broad assortment of hats, t-shirts, jewelry, art, toys, gifts and various souvenirs.
There is a price point that suits every budget and knick-knack collecting addiction.
The best part is that any money from these purchases goes towards the care, maintenance, and means for keeping this amazing park open to the public year round.
Once you’ve browsed or indulged in all that the Nature Store has to offer your hypothalamus will be well pulsating to the point that you should be asking yourself what’s for lunch?
Conveniently located just a hop, skip and a jump from the Nature Store is the snack shack up in the sky properly named The Overlook Café.
This café offers more than light snacks, various drinks, and comfort food goodies.
You can try a hot dog, grilled cheese or their famous half-pound Fossil Rim burger.
Or maybe you would like to try its appetizing cousin, the Patty Melt, which houses a Texas-sized, all-beef patty drizzled in Swiss cheese and grilled onions, sandwiched between two crisp and buttery slices of heavenly Texas toast.
For those true animal lovers or health-conscious folks, no fear, this café also offers a diverse range of menu items that won’t get you in trouble with your personal trainer or physician.
Items like garden veggie burgers, avocado wraps and “Browser” salads are just a few of the many options this café’s constantly evolving menu has to offer.
For $3.95 you can get a cool, 32-ounce souvenir cup to fill up with your favorite tea or soft drink.
Then take that drink with you back out on the road to finish your wildlife tour!
When you’re all done exploring the overlook region of the park, you’ll have to get back in your vehicle and begin the final phase of your tour.
You’ll make your way back past the giraffes and over to the Aoudads.
Eventually, you will find the Cheetahs that are securely bunkered down in their own, fenced in private playgrounds.
In summary, you should expect a self-guided tour to take at least 3 hours to experience.
I have taken the same tour over twenty times so trust me when I say you should expect to be in the park during a tour for a minimum of 3 hours.
It is quite easy to spend a whole day at this park if you plan it right.
If you ever want to get to know more about these fascinating animals, Fossil Rim offers all kinds of behind-the-scenes type of guided tours.
I have taken a few variations of these type of tours and was never left disappointed.
I got to see the off-limits, Intensive Management Areas and ride along with some of the parks own animal keepers.
Guided tours offer visitors a chance to see and learn about Maned, Mexican-gray, and Red Wolves that are all there at the park.
I once got to see where all of the Attwater Prairie Chickens were housed in a special breeding program that the park was overseeing.
At the end of that particular tour, I was treated to a three-course dinner at the park’s own unique pavilion.
About 10 years ago, I found out that Fossil Rim offered private, overnight room rentals at the parks home away from home called The Lodge.
Located on the outskirts of the park’s property, this mini-mansion was like an Airbnb back in the day but without internet, literally.
There was no WiFi and barely a cell phone signal when I first started staying there.
Now, they have WiFi but I can’t vouch for stable cell phone service – it’s hit or miss.
My favorite room has always been the “Attwater” because I could park my truck by my bedroom sliding glass doors and have my own private bathroom.
I’ve also stayed in the Peregrine room which has a California King sized bed, stone fireplace, and an awesome, oversized jacuzzi tub!
No matter which room you stay in you will be able to use all of the amenities
The Lodge has to offer its’ overnight guests.
There is a self-serve bar, pool table, and entertainment/game room in the lowest level of the house that anyone can help themselves to.
There are several balconies (private & public), patios and decks that offer stunning views of moon and stars at night. I just happen to stay on a night when there was a full moon and clear sky which made for some great cell phone pics.
If you are more into primitive style glamping, Fossil Rim has gotcha covered there as well.
Rent a room or a cabin and you automatically get a ticket for a self-guided tour and breakfast for the next morning before check out.
You can even opt for their 8:30 am “Morning Safari Guided Tour” which is reserved specifically for overnight lodging guests.
For more information about Fossil Rim Wildlife Center please visit their website at: https://fossilrim.org/
After Your Fossil Rim Tour
The first thing I do is make a stop at the Tiger Car Wash in Glen Rose, Texas.
This is where the quarters and the crispy $1 bills come into play. It usually takes a $1.00 to vacuum out all the bits and pieces of animal feed that has been spilled all over the floorboards.
And then $3 to wash off all the road dust and animal slobber from the exterior parts of my truck.
Once I’ve done that I drive on over to the Glen Rose Discount Drug Store just across the street from the car wash.
I love this little store cause it always has a bunch of really unique trinkets and Texas Souvenirs.
From there I make a selfie stop at a place called Big Rocks Park.
I spend some time climbing up on top of some rocks and then get my feet wet in the Paluxy River that runs right through this intriguing park.
By then I’ve worked up an appetite and I’m ready to head on over to The Green Pickle restaurant for a Rootbeer, some “bottle caps” and a vegetarian Portabello mushroom sandwich.
Depending on the time of day and sometimes the weather, I love to spend at least half a day fishing over at Wheeler Branch Park.
This hidden lake is less than 8 miles away from Fossil Rim and is never crowded during a weekday.
It has become one of my favorite secret fishing holes.
Here is the link to the website that will tell you all about the place: http://www.scwd.com/about-the-park.html
If stopping off at the lake is not your idea of fun then you can try popping open the “Explore Glen Rose Texas” app (available for FREE on Google Play or Apple iTunes).
This app lists all kinds of fun stuff to do and see if you’re ever in Glen Rose, Texas.