By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

My wife and I had talked about visiting the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue for some time and recently we took a Sunday afternoon and drove to Clinton with little knowledge of what to expect at the family-operated zoo there.

Little Ponderosa Zoo is north of Clinton, just a couple miles off Highway 25W along Granite Road. You probably will want to follow the signs to get to the rural attraction. Founded by the late James Cox, the Little Ponderosa has continued under the family’s care in spite of the pandemic and a devastating fire there in 2017.

It’s a friendly place and admission is only $15 or, in our case, $10 for senior citizens. It’s the type of place you will certainly want to take your children or grandchildren to and the day we were there many families were roaming the paved paths and admiring the many animals.

Little Ponderosa Zoo has a lot of animal variety including many that were rescued and brought to the site. We saw birds of all types, a big brown bull, lots of goats and sheep and even a tiger and a giraffe. You can feed many of the animals and they eat right out of your hands. Special animal food is available for a small price and comes in different-sized plastic buckets.

The animals seem as glad to see you as you are to see them. Small kids are thrilled to pet the sheep, goats, and smaller animals as well as to feed them. There’s even a pony ride available for the younger folks.

Deer roam the park and my wife and I were tickled to feed and pet the various animals, large and small, see the newborn baby animals, and discover which animals we could feed and which we could not. Whether your favorite is feathered or furred, Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue can be a great family outing and it is less than an hour away from Knoxville.

We found that taking I-75 to the Clinton exit and following it to Highway 25W was the easiest way to reach the little zoo, turning west on Granite Road and following the signs to 629 Granite Road.

You can find Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue online at or on Facebook or call them at 865-457-5536. The zoo is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon until 5 p.m. While in Clinton you may want to visit the Appalachian Museum, the historic downtown, or the Green-McAdoo Cultural Center which has a museum dedicated to the Black community there and the integration struggle in the local schools.