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Scales and Tales

Reptile Gardens Mourns the Loss of Maude Brockelsby


Maude Brockelsby, wife of Reptile Gardens founder Earl Brockelsby, died on 11 December 2011 at the age of 95.

Maude (Wagner) Brockelsby was born Nov. 2, 1916, in Lake Andes, S.D., the granddaughter of immigrants from Germany and Ireland. Her family lived in the Lake Andes area until 1929 when they moved to Wood, S.D. These were the dust-bowl days of the Great Depression, and times were hard — Maude often said she didn't like to think about the "old days"!

After graduating from Wood High School, Maude moved to Rapid City where she met an ambitious young entrepreneur named Earl Brockelsby who, in 1937, had the crazy idea of starting a tourist attraction showcasing reptiles. Maude and Earl were married in 1940.



Inthe early days of the Reptile Gardens, Maude made rockwork souvenirs, but she played an important part in the success of the business in another way. After Earl returned from World War II, he was spread thin by the several very different businesses he owned. It was Maude who encouraged him to devote his energies to the Reptile Gardens. Earl always gave her credit for helping him to focus his efforts on that business, which became one of the leading tourist attractions in the Midwest.



Maude was known, to all who knew her, for her kindness and generosity. She loved to take care of her large extended family. Her chocolate chip cookies were arguably the best ever. For many years, Maude served as the "Goodwill Ambassador" for the Reptile Gardens. Up until the end she was always interested in how things were going at the Reptile Gardens and never failed to ask how business was when any one of us stopped for a visit.


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About Us

Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with some of the most exotic birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!