Reptile Gardens

Coordinates: 43°59′25″N 103°16′18″W / 43.9903599°N 103.2716882°W / 43.9903599; -103.2716882
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Reptile Gardens
Sky Dome
43°59′25″N 103°16′18″W / 43.9903599°N 103.2716882°W / 43.9903599; -103.2716882
Date openedJune 3, 1937
LocationRapid City, South Dakota, United States

Reptile Gardens is an animal park located in south of Rapid City, South Dakota, on the road to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.[1] The park is open from the first Saturday of March through November 30 each year. Reptile Gardens was cited in the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records for being the world's largest reptile zoo.[2] It was re-certified in the 2018 edition.[3]


This South Dakota attraction was founded by 21-year-old reptile enthusiast Earl Brock and officially opened on June 3, 1937.

Allegedly intrigued by the fear and interest people expressed when faced with a snake, Brock set up a small display of snakes and began charging admission. After some initial success, Reptile Gardens went through difficult times in the 1940s while Brock was serving with the Army in Europe. Regaining momentum after World War II, the 1950s saw an increase in visitation to the Black Hills. Due to the widening and relocation of Highway 16, a new location and major expansions, including the Sky Dome, were completed in 1965.

Although Earl died in 1993, Reptile Gardens remains a family-owned-and-operated business that houses more species of reptiles than any other zoo or park in the world.[4][5]

Sky Dome[edit]

The Sky Dome is an indoor jungle that opened in 1965 as a new addition to Reptile Gardens. In 1976 the Sky Dome was rebuilt after a fire that destroyed everything except the Ponderosa Pine skeleton, which stands as the centerpiece of the Safari Room on the main level. The new Sky Dome was opened in 1977.


Prairie Dog town

Reptile Gardens provides a number of exhibits, including but not limited to:

  • Prairie Dog Town
  • Snake Program
  • Bird Program
  • Alligator/Crocodile Show
  • Bald Eagle Exhibit
  • Sky Dome
  • Safari Room
  • Komodo Dragon
  • Tortuga Falls Meditative Garden
  • Living Wall
  • Giant Tortoise Yard [6]

Conservation/Conservation Green Committee[edit]

Reptile Gardens donates to various environmental conservation organizations, including the Charles Darwin Center in the Galapagos Islands. Money donated to these organizations helps to protect natural wildlife.


Bird program

During the summer, Reptile Gardens offers educational and interactive animal shows, such as a bird program, an alligator/crocodile show, and a snake program. During performances, the animal keepers discuss safety techniques, facts, and conservation efforts to aid in species survival.[7]


Reptile Gardens has received a number of local, state, regional, and national awards in recent decades. Some of these awards include:

  • USA Today Readers Choice Award, Best Attraction in South Dakota - 2017
  • Heritage Award, Prairie Family Business Assn. - 2017
  • SBA Family-Owned Business of the Year for South Dakota - 2010
  • Prairie Family Business Assn. Family Business of the Year – 2009
  • Tom Didier Excellence in Family Business Award – 2008
  • USA Today Top 10 Roadside Attractions In The Country – 2001
  • South Dakota Governors Service Award for Outstanding Commitment to Hospitality and Education in the Visitor Industry – 2003-2011
  • Midwest Travel Writers Association Gemmy Award – 1995
  • George S. Mickelson Award for Great Service to South Dakota Visitors - 1994
  • AAA GEM Designation Attraction

Founder Earl Brock received the Ben Black Elk Award for lifetime achievement in promoting South Dakota tourism in 1982. His son, John Brock, Public Relations Director, received the same award in 2015.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Us Reptile Gardens". Archived from the original on 2014-03-25. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  2. ^ Guinness World Records 2014 p. 39
  3. ^ Guinnesss World Records 2018 p. 52
  4. ^ "Reptile Gardens, Rapid City, South Dakota". Archived from the original on 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
  5. ^ Guinness World Records 2014 p. 39
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Behind the Scenes at Reptile Gardens, near Rapid City, South Dakota". YouTube.
  7. ^ "South Dakota Nature Adventures". Archived from the original on 2009-01-09.