FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What animals will I see during my visit?

  • The Belle Isle Nature Center is home to native reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as a small herd of European fallow deer who once roamed the island and honeybees who live in an observation hive.

Is there an entrance and program fee?

  • The Belle Isle Nature Center and its programs are free. A Recreation Passport is required to drive your vehicle onto Belle Isle; the cost is $11.

Where can I purchase a Recreation Passport?

  • Recreation Passports can be purchased online through the Department of Natural Resources or at the entrance booths on Belle Isle, the White House Administration Building (between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.) or at a DNR customer service center. The closest DNR customer service center is located at the Outdoor Adventure Center, 1801 Atwater Street, Detroit, MI 48207.
  • A Recreation Passport is not required for visitors accessing the park by foot, bike or public transit, or for vehicles with a valid Ex-Prisoner of War license plate, a Disabled Veteran plate, a Medal of Honor plate or Congressional Medal of Honor plate.

Can I use your auditorium for a meeting/birthday party/baby shower?

  • Community or environmental non-profits are welcome to use our auditorium at no charge for activities and programs related to the Belle Isle Nature Center. We often host meetings and community events for a variety of organizations including Detroit Audubon, Friends of the Detroit River, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. There are several other options available on Belle Isle if you are looking for a space to rent for an event such as a birthday party or baby shower. Please contact the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Aquarium or Michigan Department of Natural Resources for more information.

Can I bring my group of 100 students?

  • Generally, large groups are divided into smaller groups and rotate their visit to the Belle Isle Nature Center with stops at the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and/or the playgrounds. Please call us at (313) 852-4056 and we’ll work together to create a schedule that ensures a fun and smooth visit for all.

Can I bring my service animal inside the nature center?

  • Domestic animals present a risk of disease transmission to other animals and are not allowed indoors at the Belle Isle Nature Center unless providing assistance as a service animal to a guest. Domestic animals can also be distracting to the animals living at the nature center and could pose a problem for guests who might not welcome their interaction.
  • Applicable service animals are limited to dogs and in some cases, miniature horses. Bona fide service animals are allowed to enter the Belle Isle Nature Center to provide assistance to guests in accordance with applicable federal, state and local regulations. Service animals must meet the following conditions:
    • Service animals must be at least 12 months of age as specified by Michigan Compiled Law (MCL) 750.502c. Animals under 12 months of age are more likely to carry parasites or other pathogens that pose a direct threat to our patrons and animal residents.
    • Service animals must be under the “effective control” of the individual with the disability, in accordance with the American Disabilities Act. “Effective control” means “service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents the use of these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal or other effective controls.”
    • Service animals must be “on duty” and accompanying a person who is in need of the animal’s assistance.
    • Service animals must not threaten the health or safety of guests or animals, or disrupt the operation of the Belle Isle Nature Center.
    • Service animals are not allowed in the Deer Encounter area of the Belle Isle Nature Center as their presence may threaten the health or safety of the European fallow deer herd.

Why aren’t the deer out on the island?

  • The European fallow deer who once roamed the island were relocated in 2004 due to the damage these non-native animals were doing to the island’s ecosystem and because their welfare was significantly compromised by enduring the long winters without a regular food source and being struck by cars. The Belle Isle Nature Center is home to some of the remaining deer who once roamed the island.

Can I schedule a field trip to the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory or Dossin Great Lakes Museum?


Are you run by the state of Michigan?

  • The Belle Isle Nature Center is operated by the Detroit Zoological Society – a renowned leader in humane education, wildlife conservation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability – which also operates the Detroit Zoo and recently announced plans to open the Great Lakes Nature Center in Macomb County.

What should I do if I find injured or orphaned wildlife?


What’s going on with the old zoo?

  • The Belle Isle Children’s Zoo closed in 2001. Additional information can be found on the Belle Isle Conservancy’s website.