Artist’s impression of Polar Passage, Oregon Zoo (Oregon Zoo)


Location:  Oregon Zoo

Address:  4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221, USA

Telephone:  +1 503 226 1561

Website contact form:


Exhibit:  Polar Passage


Nora (female) born 6 November 2015 in Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio, USA.  Arrived from Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA  9 March 2021.

Amelia Gray (female) born 8 November 2016 in Columbus Zoo, Powell, Ohio, USA.  Arrived from Maryland Zoo, Baltimore USA on 7 November 2021. She is Nora’s half sister (they have different fathers).


Oregon Zoo first opened in 1888.  Polar Passage, opening in April 2021, is one of eight major projects made possible by a 2008 zoo bond.  Taking almost three years to complete the total cost for Polar Passage was $19 million.

The rugged terrain inside the new habitat, illustrated below, simulates the bears’ native tundra region.

CLR Design’s plan of the new exhibit

The new exhibit combines large open spaces for the bears with modern viewing facilities for visitors. It comprises two outdoor habitat spaces, the Headlands and Meadow Ridge. Both have saltwater plunge pools (maximum depth 14 feet [4.2 metres]) and higher elevation areas for the bears.  There is a demonstration area to bring the visitors close to the bears during talks and demonstrations.

State-of-the-art filtration systems will save both water and energy. There are large shade structures for the bears, and a large ice machine to make cooling piles of ice.

An energy-saving geothermal loop, designed in tandem with the Elephant Lands exhibit, will draw heat from the polar bear habitat to warm the elephant building.

The elevated terrain of the exhibit will help keep the habitat cool and provide panoramic views for bears, enabling them to look over the heads of visitors.  There are soft substrates including a dirt area, a grassed area and a digging pit.

Visitors to the Polar Passage will have opportunities for up-close and interactive experiences, such as a “smell port” where bears get within sniffing distance of visitors. They will also find information on actions they can take on behalf of wild bears and the Arctic ecosystem, and about the groundbreaking scientific research the zoo is conducting with partners to understand how climate change affects wild bears.

Many of the new features at Polar Passage were made possible through the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s $8.5 million Heart of the Oregon Zoo campaign, which is currently raising funds to support the zoo’s efforts in advancing animal welfare, conservation and education.


None to date.  The exhibit is due to opened in April 2021. We wrote to the zoo on 15 March 2021 requesting further information on the facilities and care regimes but have not received a respnse.

The video below is the Zoo’s preview of the new exhibit.

Return to Captive Polar Bear Directory

Page updated 07 January 2022