WATCH: Inside The Gates Of The Stunning Abandoned Belle Isle Zoo

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We don’t share this video to celebrate in Detroit ruin; we do it to raise awareness because this place could and reasonably should come back to life in some way.

The Belle Isle Zoo was something many city-dwellers loved when it was open. It never was as big as the counterpart in Royal Oak, but to many in the city, it was the zoo they could actually get to.

The zoo was opened in 1895 and it has sat closed since 2002. Now, the State of Michigan controls Belle Isle under a 30 year lease agreement and it is a state park. Right now, the former zoo portion is a twisted type of playground that the State Police are playing a constant game of cat-and-mouse at to keep the curious at bay.

If the historic aquarium can come back to life, maybe this can, too – even if it’s not as a zoo but something else. What could that something else be?

  • Me and some friends turned the old golf course into a disc golf course and would like to do the same to the zoo.

  • I think a better and income producing option to benefit the city and residents would be a mini amusement park. I know some people who could and may be interested in doing this. It would be a win-win for everyone.

  • When I was a child in the fifties, there was a petting zoo on Belle Isle. While I am not a advocate for zoos unless they are for rehabilitation, perhaps something like that could be considered.

  • I think if there were enough people willing to volunteer their time and efforts this could be an extension of the park like Wildwood is in Toledo. Clean it up and give it a face lift, like new paint and landscaping. The disc golf course isn’t a bad idea either but I honestly think it could be reopened with a little community effort.

  • I was fortunate to be able to take my daughter there when she was 5 and been myself as a kid in the 50-60’s , I went to Pt.Peelee park in Canada this last Spring, and found it to be a Birders Delite especially during Spring and Fall migrations,and gated price as in any state park ,but also paid passes for specialty events,thus putting into the Kitty for upkeep,as it is in pretty direct path o noted in migrations. Juz sayin ,would love to be in volved and another point is most of the naturals there already can stay , Birders Heaven for sure, sincerely Mary Gulasey and maintenance. Bell Isle would and could be another Pt place for migratory birds and birds ,with money back to pay for the programs on the Island

  • It’s really a shame what has happened to it. I’m not a big proponent of zoos, but at one time this was a big Detroit attraction. I will say, that walkway they built in the late 70’s/early 80’s was a design nightmare. It’s a Children’s Zoo right? That means people are pushing strollers. You could not push the stroller without it’s wheels getting stuck in the plank spaces because they laid the planks lengthwise instead of crosswise. DUH….anyway I hope something can be done with all that wonderful space.

  • How about Giving Michigan State a farm venue to show progress in organics and home garden skills. Lessons at the Belle Isle Learning Center. You could make it a show place of gardens of all types with knowledge in many areas. From learning how to survive if lost in the woods to how to compost, identify different trees and harmful plants. So educational. So Beautiful. It would bring in the public. 5 day seminars? Camping? Hike trail. Winter walks. Bird watching. Detroit’s Belle Gardens. Working on the plans as you read this.

  • They could let people pay off thier water bill by having them stay there for one day while a hunter attempt to shoot them. They could set up camera and charge people to watch.

  • What a waste. Clearly some wonderful space and structures. How about an animal sanctuary as opposed to a captive zoo? Could be an incredible home to thousands of needy animals, pet and farmed and rescued exotics!

  • I was taken to the zoo as an infant, being raised in Detroit.I loved the entire Belle Isle. I went there as a teenager into adulthood. It was a place of peace, fishing, family, canoeing,walking, biking, parties,romantic dates, spending time with family, watching the boat races, etc. Then the violence started,,the city and the police intervened, the deer population got out of control, then the peace of the Isle vanished. The state took it over and here we are all now.No large. beautiful park for the citizens of Detroit, that is and for ever will be a part of the great heritage of Detroit.

  • My nephew was telling me about a 150 acre paint ball/airsoft place in Minnesota. Always busy. This would be awesome for that.

  • Hello. I am the creator of this video. Thanks for posting the article.

    From the vantage point of my drone, it looks as though the structures inside the zoo are in fairly good condition. I would love to see the zoo reopened in some capacity. It’s such a serious shame to watch it rot like this! While I have mixed feelings about the Island being leased by the state, overall I think it will be a good thing because hopefully the island can be restored and areas like the zoo reopened one day.

    Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the video. Please feel free to also check out my Youtube channel and the other videos shot by my Phantom 2 Drone. Here’s the link…

  • I never knew thus existed. I visited there for picnics and ice skating. I would love to see pictures before it easy abandoned.

  • what about a rehabilitative sanctuary for all the hundreds of stray dogs in the city ?

  • I am from downriver but haven’t been to the area in quite awhile. Isn’t the whole area in need of rebuilding? I mean look at River Rouge. You’re not gonna get a multi million dollar company in to revamp state land when it’s surrounded by poverty, crime, graffiti, gangs, and drugs. Spend the money on the needed first.

  • I went there as an adult it was a great place to go. I brought my wfe and kids there back in the late 80’s and 90’s. When the state took over Belle Isle I thought it was a god send so the island would be saved further neglect another fine job by kwamee. I hope they do open it again if not a zoo then another venue that can open to the public and enjoyed. Belle isle is a beautiful place. Don’t want to see happen to it what happened to Boblo island.

  • Use it as a bootcamp for kids that are uncontrollable, and while there put them to work to clean the place up. GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY CAN TAKE PRIDE IN, AND IN RETURN TEACH THEM THAT REWARDS COME WITH HARD WORK.

  • It would make great outdoor concert venue and flea market with farmers market includes.

  • The Detroit Zoological Society still owns and operates the Belle Isle “Nature” Zoo. It has limited hours and hoses the remaining Fallow deer population that once roamed freely on the Island. This is still one of our jewels that the DZS will continue to improve.

  • I am not against zoos if they are well run and ecologically minded. When facing the choice of a zoo or extinction, I would go zoo. But they must be developed with the animals, in mind first and foremost.

  • It’s very large and built for nature. It should be a wild, verdant space, and the walkways could be upgraded and used. It was lovely with the animals, it could be lovely with managed overgrowth, butterflies and birds would find it.
    Please don’t turn this beautiful island into a vile amusement park. That could be anywhere, not in a bit of paradise.

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