Abandoned, But Not Forsaken

Exploring the Old Zoo Nature Trail in Cisco, Texas

Entrance to the Trail – Photo by the author

There is something about deserted spaces that draws out the explorer in me. Horror fan that I am, I know these are the spots where the paranormal linger. I would trespass into every vacant house if it weren’t for the threat of arrest. Instead, I feed my curious spirit with estate sales, circling rooms recently emptied of their human inhabitants and filled instead with the bric-a-brac they have left behind. No ghosts linger there, the only thing wafting through these places is the scent of mothballs and menthol.

I’d love the chance to wander through an empty asylum, a shuttered convent, a derelict hospital building. Any place filled with spiders and memories. I first heard about the abandoned zoo in Cisco through a YouTube video. “We have to go there,” I told my husband.

Zoo Trail Marker – Photo by the author

We arrived in Cisco at noon, early enough for a picnic lunch, then headed outside town to the zoo. The zoo had operated in the 1920s and closed in the 1930s. In 2021, A nonprofit organization, SAFE (Students, Athletics, Families, and Education) stepped in to clear the trash and build hiking paths.

The Start of the Trail – Photo by the author

The trail wound through the crumbling remains of the concrete structures built to house the animals.

Photo by the author

We wandered past rusted metal bars, peered into cave-like structures.

Photo by the author

Had our path been lit in twilight instead of bright, mid-day sun, I might have imagined the sad calls of the creatures who had lived in these enclosures.

Photo by the author

I wondered what had happened to the zoo’s inhabitants once the place closed. Even though I listened closely, I heard no whisper of ghostly growls – just the occasional whistle of a song bird.

Photo by the author

We continued along the trail, past the animal pens.

Photo by the author

Despite the sign’s promise – I spotted neither spiders nor a spider-shaped rock. As we passed the remains of an old foot bridge, the high notes of childish laughter drifted to us. Other hikers, not the specters of visitors from a century past.

Photo by the author

We climbed to an overlook, to a spot marked “Cougar Rock.”

Photo by the author

We left before sundown, before the spirits of past inhabitants appeared. No ghouls, just a lovely place for a spring stroll through the reminders of a past reclaimed in Cisco, Texas.


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