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The idea of a new park for Olmsted County was fostered by the Olmsted County Park Board and residents of the ark area. The initial 465 acres of land were purchased in 1967. Located in the Zumbro River Valley, the area offered ideal recreational opportunities. A large bend in the river, called an "oxbow" because of its resemblance to an ox yoke, gave the park its name. This "oxbow" has been preserved through bank stabilization and now surrounds the main picnic area.
During the years since 1967, the park has been transformed from farm fields into a beautifully preserved area. A zoo was established in 1969 with the donation of native Minnesota animals from John Gilbertson, the regional game warden at that time. This zoo is now an integral part of park activities. In 1974, an additional 107 acres north of the park were purchased, protecting the park from future development. This brought the total size of the park to 572 acres. A nature center, completed in December, 1981, is located near the zoo. This facility expands both programming potential and work capabilities at the park and offers additional exhibit areas for public use.
The uniqueness of Oxbow Park is found in the amount of public participation and support it has received since its founding. The dedication of park visitors to its well-being has made Oxbow a favorite spot for many in southeastern Minnesota.