Lee Richardson Zoo stands as one of the longest-operating zoos in the state of Kansas. Our story starts in 1919 when George Finnup donated 105 acres of land for a park in memory of his father, Frederick Finnup. The Zoo was then established in 1927 by the local chapter Izaak Walton League (a national organization interested in the preservation of wildlife) with two skunks brought in by Lee Richardson, the Chief of Police and Park and Zoo Superintendent. The original intention was to house species common to the local area. Each committee member of the Izaak Walton League was supposed to find a local animal to donate to get the zoo started. When two of the League members dealt with a passing circus, they ended up purchasing an African lioness. On April 26th, 1950, the zoo was formally named Lee Richardson Zoo.
Photos courtesy Finney County Museum
Today, Lee Richardson Zoo is home to 250 animals representing 110-plus species within 50 acres of grounds. As one of the last free pedestrian admission zoos in the country, Lee Richardson Zoo has an annual attendance of 150,000 – 200,000 people and is one of the top family destinations in Kansas. Visitors come from across the United States. The majority of visitors are from western Kansas and neighboring states of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. With the unique drive-thru feature, guests can view a portion of exhibits from their car.
Lee Richardson Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of accredited zoos and aquariums in the areas of animal care, wildlife conservation, education, and science. AZA is America's leading accrediting organization for zoos and aquariums and accredits only those institutions that have achieved rigorous standards for animal care, education, wildlife conservation and science.
Located just inside the Ben Grimsley entrance arches, the Safari Shoppe offers a selection of unique souvenirs, t-shirts, animal-themed toys and more. Also serving as the zoo's hospitality house the Safari Shoppe offers a place to purchase ice cold, Coca-Cola products, a variety of sandwiches and snacks and 10 flavors of Dippin Dots ice cream.