You could call it a "zoo", but you'd be missing something.

I prefer to call it a preserve, because truthfully, that's the goal of the Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo - to preserve what's native and natural to Minnesota.

Don't believe me? According to their website, they explain, "Their intent was two fold – to expand the amount of public green space available to county citizens, and as a means for the rural community in Olmsted County to maintain an identity in response to Rochester's growth.  The initial process of purchasing 465 acres of land began in 1967."

TSM Rochester

This goal includes the preservation of land and animals that have called Minnesota (and Rochester, specifically) "home" for years.

My husband and I were driving around Rochester's countryside for a completely different reason on Saturday. I just wanted to take cool photos of local nature absorbed in fog. As we made our way toward Byron, we stumbled upon Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo.

We considered going for a hike, but I squealed with excitement when I realized a zoo was on-site too! "Wait, there's a zoo here!?" I said. "Yep!" my husband replied. We were even happier when we realized that this "zoo" is ENTIRELY FREE.

This "zoo" is so much more than that. Here's some of what's inside....

How lucky are we that we get to call these beautiful animals our own? Minnesota is a gorgeous place, and I was thrilled to see more of what it has to offer this weekend. Have you heard bald eagles make these sounds before?

I strongly encourage taking the kids to see this piece of beauty for a few reasons: Firstly, it's free - so,,,duh. Secondly, it's a great way to introduce a conversation about the importance of conservation and respecting our environment. Especially the one in our backyard! Thirdly, it's so close by!! The park and zoo were literally fifteen minutes from my home in NW Rochester. Very little cost and time are required to enjoy this!

Have you been to Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo before? What's your favorite part about it?