Old Zoo Nature Trails - Atlas Obscura

Old Zoo Nature Trails

Hike the ruins of a zoo that was shut down by an unsolved murder. 


The Cisco Zoo opened in the 1920s, to the delight of residents in rural central Texas. Situated in the shadow of a dam, this small zoo offered a chance to see flamingos, monkeys, bears, and many other animals. Although its selection of animals would have been quotidian by modern standards, the Cisco Zoo was a thrilling experience to visitors. 

The fun came to a grinding halt when the menagerie became a murder mystery. A bear was poisoned in an unsolved crime, and a deer died under conspicuous circumstances as well. These and other factors saw the zoo fully abandoned in the 1930s. 

Almost a hundred years later, the long-abandoned ruins were repurposed as a hiking trail by the local nonprofit Students, Athletics, Families and Education. Visitors can walk through the rusted enclosures and concrete shelters where the animals were once kept, and even find the remains of what were once offices used by zoo staff. The ruins form an eerie backdrop to an otherwise tranquil 1.5-mile track still in the shadow of the dam. 

Know Before You Go

The Old Zoo nature trail doesn't have a street address listed on most navigation websites and apps. Admission is free, though donations are accepted. Some of the trails connect to the Lake Cisco Lodge and Campground; visitors should be wary of crossing onto private property. 

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November 23, 2023

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