Chippewa Falls has an amazing place to play, relax, and observe animals in the beautiful 318-acre Irvine (pronounced “ER-vin”) Park. the Irvine Park Zoo opened way back in 1909 with a bear exhibit. Today, the Zoo features tigers, bobcats, cougars, deer, bison, and other wildlife. Summer months also offer the Red Barn Petting Zoo, and an extensive lighted holiday display – we’re talking over 100 displays and 100,000 lights – makes the holiday season sparkle. Historical displays include the Sunny Valley Schoolhouse and Pioneer Norwegian Log Home on the weekends, which are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Irvine Park Cave on the grounds runs about 20 feet long, with natural springs running through.
The Rumble Bridge (above) is a pony truss style bridge that spans a ravine in Irvine Park. It got its name from its design that features wood planks that were only nailed down on one end. It allowed for flexing and stress relief, plus expansion and contraction with the seasons. It also created a rumbling sound when cars would drive over it, hence the name of “Rumble” or “Rumbly” Bridge. The Rumble Bridge carried vehicles all the way to 1981; it’s now for pedestrians and bicyclists in the park.
The Sunny Valley Schoolhouse (right) was originally built in 1903, standing about 8 miles west of Chippewa Falls to serve the nearby Town of Wheaton. This one-room schoolhouse was heated with cord wood and slabs in a box stove, and lit with kerosene lamps. Almost all of the children who attended back then walked to school, as there were few automobiles and no snow plows (of course, they told their kids and grandkids it was uphill, both ways.) Sunny Valley School stayed an operating school until the early 1960’s, when the growth of Chippewa Falls and its school district took over. It was donated and moved to Irvine Park in 1965, where you can explore it – in season.
Irvine Park & Zoo is located on the north side of Chippewa Falls, near the Leinenkugel Brewery and Northern Wisconsin State Fair Park. Just off Highway 124, Highway 29 and U.S. 53 also bring you close.
The Zoo is open year ’round from 7am to sunset, with extended hours during the holidays. Admission is free.
Irvine Park & Zoo Address:
125 Bridgewater Avenue (Highway 124)
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729