While the road leading to Riverbanks Zoo & Garden’s West Columbia entrance will be closed for months because of flood damage, several new attractions will be unveiled in 2016, part of a roughly $36 million expansion.
This spring, the much-anticipated sea lion exhibit will open, along with an interactive children’s garden, Waterfall Junction, in the Botanical Garden. The three-acre garden – the single largest addition to the Riverbanks campus since the Botanical Garden was completed in 1995 – will include a dino dig, tree houses, creeks and ponds.
Those features come on top of a new entrance and gift shop and two new exhibits – river otters and grizzly bears – that opened in 2015.
Excitement about the expansion is somewhat tempered by damage from the Oct. 4 floods at the Botanical Parkway entrance off U.S. 378, when floodwaters destroyed a portion of the drive over Double Branch Creek. According to Lexington County officials, repairing the road could cost up to $1 million and take up to a year to complete.
Still, zoo visitors and members are eagerly awaiting the chance to welcome the sea lions to their new home and enjoy all Riverbanks has to offer.
Annual attendance at Riverbanks – the state’s most popular tourist attraction and a top destination in the Southeast – has jumped from an average of 800,000 in the early 2000s to more than 1 million in recent years.
Janet Jones Kendall