The Hardscaper Blog:

7 Concrete Features That Took These Zoos to the Next Level

Shotcrete rockwork on zoo rocks in elephant exibit.

If you live in Colorado, you’ve probably been to Denver Zoo and/or Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but did you know that Colorado Hardscapes has constructed several features at both? Our history with installing concrete features at Colorado zoos goes back decades, starting with simple repair projects and then growing into something more. Taking part in so many projects, we’ve seen first hand how basic exhibits turn into beautiful habitats.

Take a look at the following list to see the role of decorative concrete in the development of these Colorado zoos.

Denver Zoo

1) Stingray Cove – 2020

In collaboration with the nation’s leading Stingray expert, Living Exhibits, we had the pleasure of working on Denver Zoo’s new stingray exhibit. Our contribution to the 15,000-gallon saltwater pool included full pool installation, dirtwork, piping, pool shotcrete, GFRC Rockwork/waterfall with staining, coping, and texture matted skim coat on the outside of the walls. The amount of detail that went into the construction of this habitat is beyond belief but was all worth it for the well-being of these little residents.

2) Northern Shores – 2011

Right next to the Northern Shore Café is a space for little “monkeys” to get their wiggles out. This area includes several large boulders, a streambed, and a sandbox. Most of this work incorporated shotcrete but does include pre-casted crabs and starfish in the sandbox. By hand-painting all of our work, the end product had a specific, detailed look. By incorporating natural-looking play structures, this space coordinates with the rest of the zoo seamlessly.

3) Elephant “Enrichment” Feeders – 2008

The intelligence, strength, and size of elephants necessitate physical and mental challenges while in captive spaces. These two feeders at Denver Zoo provide this “enrichment” for the elephants when grabbing for hay or other treats. Mimicking tree stumps, they were constructed with shotcrete on a predesigned mold and then hand-painted. This was a small addition to a big exhibit but makes the experience much more stimulating for both the elephants and the visitors.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

About a decade ago, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ) was in search of someone capable of creating high-quality artisan rockwork for their new Encounter Africa exhibit. Working with Portico Group, JE Dunn, and CMZ, we constructed a wide variety of African features. Most of our work there used shotcrete and was then hand-painted. Everything else was done with GFRC. The main goal for this new exhibit was to pull you into African habitats, despite the zoo being off of a Colorado mountain and with the power of artisan rocks, that is exactly what you get.

1) Encounter Africa Waterfall – 2011

Shotcrete rockwork on zoo rocks in elephant exibit.

This two-story GFRC waterfall cliff and then hand-painted by our own in-house rockwork artists.

3) Encounter Africa Pool – 2011

This shotcrete pool shell and bordering shotcrete boulders make a great natural bathing and play area for the elephants.

2) Banyan Tree – 2011

This shotcrete African Banyan tree assembled with an in-house mold is another great engagement for the elephants as a feeder.

4) Meerkat Exhibit – 2011

Shotcrete rockwork on zoo rocks in meerkat exibit.

These shotcrete dirt mounds and logs with a boulder enclosure create a natural environment.

Even more so than normal, we have had to follow extreme regulations during our involvement in constructing concrete features at zoos. In addition to the safety of the animals during construction, we also needed to take considerable steps in the authentication of the final design. Whether it is the artisan rocks, pools, trees, etc. our goal was to closely match as much as possible the natural environments. We look forward to partnering with these zoos again in the future. If you would like to contact Colorado Hardscapes to add pools and or artisan rocks to your project, please contact us at 303•750•8200.