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The Penrose Legacy: America’s Highest Zoo


by Alex Johnson

Tourists flock to the much-loved Cheyenne Mountain Zoo year round to learn more about the wild animals, ride the historic Herschell carousel, and enjoy the spectacular views of Colorado Springs and the prairie beyond. The Zoo shares a special place in our childhood memories, but many do not realize Spencer Penrose founded the nationally-renowned zoo in 1926.

In 1916, Penrose was given a bear as a gift, sparking an avid interest in collecting exotic animals. Penrose’s Broadmoor Hotel and Turkey Creek Ranch housed many of the animals, until a monkey bit a guest of the hotel.

Since its founding, the zoo has been a nonprofit innovator and is not supported by public funds. Penrose designed it as a trust to the people of Colorado and unlike most other zoos, it’s corporate partnerships, user fees/admissions, and donations which solely fund Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

In addition to its status as one of the best zoos in the U.S., Cheyenne Mountain Zoo boasts the largest giraffe herd in the United States and one of the most stunning vistas in the Pikes Peak region.

The image shows Spencer Penrose wearing a hat and seated in the front of the train. A train, such as this one, carried passengers to the Zoo in its early years.