By Matt Fouts
The Smokey Mountains has millions of visitors every year. Needless to say it has hundreds of attractions in a relatively small area of Tennessee. The most prominent of the attractions would be Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN, but amid the smaller attractions is one of the coolest zoological facilities I have had the privilege of visiting.
As you can imagine the price of land in the area is relatively expensive ($800,000 an acre). Therefore, Bill and Jeanie Lucey made the choice to build a zoo that was primarily indoors. That would give families something to do when the weather isn’t great and they could really create a cool rainforest environment.
They succeeded! The entire building looks like an ancient ruin with a large waterfall in the front. The theme continues throughout the entire facility. Bill Lucey, the zoo’s owner, has a background in horticulture and is a student of geology. It has served him well since almost the entire zoo is comprised of terrariums. He had done a masterfully job of using tropical plants and has become an artist at creating artificial rock.
Most of their collection is reptiles and small mammals. TWP visitors would recognize a few familiar species like ring-tailed lemurs, various tortoises, and a few of the reptiles like ball pythons. Howevers, Rainforest Adventures has a bunch of rare and unique species. Nearly all of them have a great story behind them.
I know my kids had a great time looking for all the species in the terrarium. Like I mentioned before, they are all furnished beautifully, so it can be difficult to find some of the animals that blend in so well. We made it game with the kids like a “Where’s Waldo – Rainforest Addition”.
Behind the building they do have some outdoor exhibits. They have Dorper sheep, llamas, emu, chickens, and various tortoises. You can buy a bag of feed with admission and feed all the animals in the back (although Bill gave my kids some bread to feed them). He had a budgie feeding aviary that is currently under construction for improvements.
Toward the end of the experience, there are some large enclosures that has a pair of African servals and African crested porcupines. They serve as the backdrop to their animal show.
The show was the highlight for my kids. The keeper, Jim, did a great job of keeping people entertained. He played well with the audience and did a wonderful job combining magic, animals and a educational message.
This smaller, family-owned facility was like visiting an aquarium, but for small land animals. To truly appreciate it, you must take your time and pay attention. The same could be said for visiting a real rainforest.
If you are in the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area don’t miss this gem!
Address: 1430 Hurley Drive, Sevierville, TN 37862