Thompson Park Zoo and Conservancy

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History of the Thompson Park Zoo & Conservancy

The NYS Zoo at Thompson Park was established in 1920 when the Northern New York Trust Company donated two whitetail deer to Thompson Park and the City of Watertown to create a naturalistic exhibit that would offer all visitors an opportunity to enjoy the grace and beauty of these indigenous animals.

Since 1920, Watertown’s Zoo has been home to a diverse collection of wildlife from the exotic to the indigenous. The first animals were purchased with funds raised by the children’s Park Zoo Club. The club, under the leadership of a twelve-year old boy, was formed as a support organization to provide a source of funding to feed the animals and construct small habitats for animals like porcupines, raccoons and other small carnivores.

Historical photos of the Zoo

Over the next few decades, Zoos across America began to shift towards a more naturalistic method of exhibiting animals. Seeking to incorporate these changes into the Watertown Zoo, a new generation of leadership established the Thompson Park Conservancy and Zoo. In 1992 the Zoo was turned over to the Conservancy, a federal not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entity. The Zoo began a period of rapid growth and expansion developing a “new Zoo” for the citizens of the North Country, an endeavor which continues to this day.

Our Zoo is now the second most visited attraction in the Thousand Islands Region. It attracts nearly 50,000 visitors per year and is supported by over 800 member households and reaches nearly 5,000 people through education programs.

The NYS Zoo at Thompson Park continues to move forward inspiring conservation, education and family oriented programs.


Visit the New York State Zoo Today (315) 782-6180

What Visitors Say

The North Country's best Summer destination.

- Alan, Watertown, NY