We wanted to create a space where you can meet the animals you never imagined you could, while also educating many on their new favorite friends. What started out as just a few animals has turned into some much more.
A World You Didn't know existed.
Wilstem can trace its beginnings back to 1915 when the property was purchased by Ed Ballard, a noted local entrepreneur who developed the area as a hideaway for wealthy and famous people. Always a horse lover, Ballard owned a string of blooded show horses he annually entered in horse shows around the country, winning many prizes along the way. Ballard owned a large interest in the West Baden Springs Hotel, and he bought out circuses throughout the country, eventually forming the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, larger even than the Barnum or Ringling Brothers circuses.
Ed Ballard died in 1936 and the property stayed in his family until 1950 when it was purchased by John Cabot, the owner of the nearby French Lick Resort. Cabot died in the late 1950s and the property was sold, named Wilstem Farm, and used as a hunting grounds.
In 1989, the property got a new lease on life when it was purchased by Jerry Fuhs, a Southern Indiana entrepreneur, who for many years managed concerts for mega stars including George Jones, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr.and Ray Charles; and groups like Alabama, The Grass Roots, Dr. Hook and many others. Fuhs was looking for a getaway spot for his personal use. “This place is 1,100 acres of unparalleled natural beauty; it’s just full of history and it deserves the utmost attention to preservation,” said Fuhs, who began an extensive restoration of the property in 1988. All of the farm’s original buildings were restored, including the 10 bedroom lodge, built of solid walnut logs cut on the property. Riding and hiking trails were cleared and restored, ponds were stocked with fish, and modern guest quarters were added..
In the 2000's Fuhs started making investments into the property over the next 10 years. Including adding new cabins, adding the covered bridge, and expanding barns.
As Wilstem continues to evolve we felt like we needed to add additional activities. In 2014, French Lick Ziplines, a 9 line zipline course was added to the property.
A three month trial with a herd of African elephants takes place in 2015. The elephants were moving through the area and decided to stay for a three month period.
Elephant Encounters were created as a permanent experience at Wilstem.
Giraffe Encounters were added to Wilstem.
Roos and Crew Encounters and Grizzly Encounters were added to Wilstem.
Wilstem changes name to Wilstem Wildlife Park
Wilstem Wildlife Park always had a plan to open a Drive Thru Safari.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020 the need for a socially distant activity grew even more apparent. With a fast track, Wilstem Wildlife Park opens Drive Thru Safari in June!
Wilstem Wildlife Park adds Grizzly Ridge.
Grizzly Ridge is created and is now part of the Drive Thru Safari!