When Fort Worth oilman Tom Mantzel bought a 1,400-acre exotic game range near Glen Rose in 1973, he never dreamed it would become a wildly successful drive-through zoo. But it’s not the roaming animals that make Fossil Rim Wildlife Center a zoo. It’s the horde of people who show up in cars or board one of the property’s many tour buses. At peak times, traffic backs up on the 9-and-a-half-mile road that loops through the fields where grazing herds of waterbuck, addax, and gemsbok roam.
I guess my numerous safaris to Africa have spoiled me. It’s difficult to enjoy watching antelopes spar when SUVs with kids hanging out of the windows surround my vehicle. But I discovered a secret spot at Fossil Rim: Foothill Safari Camp, a cluster of seven tiny cabins down the road from the property’s upscale bed and breakfast.
The cabins, each equipped with two twin beds, a private bath, and central heat and air, sit on a 2-acre pasture that overlooks a small lake. Staying in these minimalist cabins is like being backstage at a rowdy concert. All of the action takes place miles away. Here you and the animals share quiet time.
Instead of driving the park, my 7-year-old nephew and I decided to sit on a blanket with our binoculars and watch the animals as they wandered past. We ticked off fallow deer, sable antelope, a herd of addax, and a pair of jackrabbits. Their supernaturally tall ears glowed red from the reflection of the late afternoon sun. A male sandhill crane almost knocked over my wine bottle as he confidently strutted by us.
Breakfast is served in the small pavilion on site. And this is the only place to board the Morning Safari Guided Tour, an early morning feeding trip reserved solely for overnight guests. You’re on the road before the gates open and back to your cabin by noon. Just in time for a picnic and a nap.