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Smithsonian's National Zoo Opens Spectacular New American Trail Exhibit

For Release: August 29, 2012

Photos courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo

To download images, visit the Smithsonian National Zoo's Flickr page.

After five years of planning and construction, the National Zoo will open the new American Trail exhibit to the public Saturday, Sept. 1, at noon. The renovated area in the extensive lower valley between Elephant Trail and Amazonia will transport visitors to the Pacific Northwest where they will come face-to-face with California sea lions and seals. The new trail is also home to pelicans, industrious beavers, playful otters, the iconic bald eagle, new intelligent ravens and two stunning new American grey wolves. The total cost of American Trail is $42 million.

Many of the American Trail inhabitants represent species that have rebounded after coming close to extinction.

"American Trail is a celebration of our country's spirit and, in true Smithsonian tradition, a showcase for 'living' American Treasures," said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. "Our visitors can get to know their native wildlife and learn what they can do to help conserve our country's gems."

American Trail highlights include:

  • A 300,000-gallon sea lion pool and a 125,000-gallon seal pool. A wave machine keeps the water in constant motion, providing sensory stimulation for the animals. The pools offer the visitors split-level and above-water viewing areas.
  • A new wolf yard that provides a number of unparalleled views of the Zoo's two gray wolves.
  • A specially designed tide pool exhibit offers visitors the chance to dip their toes in a realistic pool that mimics the Northwest coast. As water rushes over visitors' feet, they can explore the model sea stars, barnacles and sea urchins.
  • Landscaping with all native species representing several North American ecosystems, including coastal upland, wet forest and eastern woodland forest and coast. The renovated streambed is flanked by 2,000 ferns, and each animal habitat was planted to meet the animals' needs.
  • Seal Rock Cafe, which provides visitors a perfect resting spot to enjoy sustainable seafood and other delicious treats. All of the dishes from the cafe will consist of seasonal and local seafood in keeping with the new food philosophy at the Zoo.

For additional information about American Trail, visit the online press kit, which includes History and Background, Animal Biographies, Landscape and Horticulture and Life Support Systems and Green Facilities.

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