The largest bear ranch in the United States is tucked away in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the perfect place to view the graceful yet powerful black bears in their natural habitat.
The ranch is located outside of Newberry Michigan, a small town that welcomes visitors. It encourages people to learn more about the plants, people, and animals that call this region of the Midwest home.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch: An Upper Peninsula Attraction Unlike Any Other
Oswald’s Bear Ranch is a favorite family destination among locals and visitors who are exploring Michigan’s wild and rural Upper Peninsula. This attraction is more than just a place to see the North American Black Bear — It’s a conversation station that provides its bear residents a safe and natural environment.
When you arrive at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, you discover that there are four distinct habitats in which you can see and experience the black bears for yourself. There are two larger habitats, which are designed for adult bears who are accustomed to one another and who get along.
The two smaller habitats are designated for cubs who are being raised and cared for by the owners of the ranch. Within the habitats for the young bears is a beautiful waterfall where they can splash and play together. It’s a favorite spot among guests at the ranch.
The Black Bears
There are more than 40 black bears that call the ranch home, and all of them have been rescued from unsafe environments or tragic situations. Each year, dedicated people bring rescued cubs to the ranch.
The community rallies together to welcome the new additions. In fact, the owners always launch a community contest to name the newest additions to the facility.
The History of Oswald’s Bear Ranch
Oswald’s Bear Ranch was founded in 1997 by two dedicated conservationists — Dean and Jewel Oswald. To this day, Dean is the owner and operator of the facility, and he has every intention of keeping this place a family business.
Dean has two sons, as well as three grandsons, who currently work on the ranch. He predicts that they’ll take over the business when he retires.
Dean and Jewel founded the ranch because they’re passionate about saving the North American black bear. They want to provide rescued bears with a safe place to grow and thrive.
The 240 acres of bear sanctuary provides plenty of room for the animals to roam. It gives visitors an opportunity to experience the majestic beauty of these creatures too.
Every one of the 40 bears that lives at the facility has been rescued. Most of them come to the ranch from desperate circumstances.
For example, some of the bears have arrived at the ranch because their mothers had to be euthanized because of aggressive behavior at a national park. Others have been found as orphan bears in their natural environment after their mothers were killed with little hope of surviving in the wilderness.
Once they arrive at the ranch, the bears are essentially free to roam. In order to provide for their care and maintain the facility, Dean and his team welcome visitors to the ranch to visit with the bears and learn more about them.
It’s a win-win situation — More people learn about the plight of these animals, and the bears can live freely in a comfortable, natural environment. The result of the hard work and effort of the Oswald family is the largest bear-only ranch of its kind in the country.
Things to Do at Oswald’s Bear Ranch
If you’re planning a visit to Oswald’s Bear Ranch, here are a few things that you will be able to do once you arrive.
Observe the Habitats
Each of the four habitats has distinct features for the bears to enjoy, making them all worth viewing during your visit. Have your camera ready when you step up to the viewing platforms.
You never know what these animals are going to do next. They’ve been known to put on a show much to the delight of visitors of all ages.
Take Photos With Bear Cubs
Perhaps the most popular and exciting thing to do at the bear ranch is to meet the youngest bear cubs and have your photograph taken with them. Photos are available for $10 per group with the guests standing around the bear cub.
You can even pet and hand-feed cubs a special treat — but only when you’ve been told it’s safe to do so. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they’re glad to capture on camera. The cost of the experience goes toward caring for the bears that live at the facility.
Purchase Gift Shop Souvenirs
The gift shop is a treasure-trove where people of all ages can find their favorite bear products to commemorate their visits to the ranch. Some of the items available include T-shirts, books, stuffed animal bears, keychains, postcards, and more.
In addition to picking up something to remember your visit by, you can also browse the newspaper articles and historical documents that are on display. These items tell the story of the ranch.
Lodging Near Oswald’s Bear Ranch
Oswald’s Bear Ranch is located on the outskirts of Newberry, so most of the lodging options are about 10 miles away in the center of town. Some of the best spots near the ranch include:
- Quality Inn and Suites of Newberry, Michigan — This budget-friendly hotel has been recently renovated and is conveniently located near all of the best attractions, making it one of the most popular hotels in the city.
- Pleasant Moose Lodge — This family-owned hotel in Newberry has 32 fully-furnished rooms and suites available for guests to book. Known as a comfortable and welcoming hotel, people love to stay here because of the ample amenities and premier location.
- America’s Best Value Inn Tahquamenon Country — This affordable hotel offers some of the best rates in Newberry, and it’s an easy choice when you’re hoping to visit the bear ranch during your Upper Peninsula vacation.
Dining Near Oswald’s Bear Ranch
One of the best parts about visiting Oswald’s Bear Ranch is that you’ll have the opportunity to embed yourself in the quaint and charming town of Newberry. After spending a day watching the bears in their natural habitat and getting photographs with the newest additions to the ranch, it’ll be time to eat.
You may want to stop by Timber Charlies, one of the most popular local restaurants in the region. You won’t find an online menu for this family-friendly restaurant, but you’re sure to find something delicious to enjoy when you arrive.
If you are more in the mood for a pizza rather than a burger, consider Seder’s Pizza. It has not only wood-fired pizzas on its menu but also homemade soups that are rotated on a daily basis.
Of course, the best way to end any day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is with a large scoop of ice cream. Fortunately, Newberry is home to The Scoop Ice Cream and Snack Shop, which will surely serve up exactly what you’re craving.
Newberry Michigan Attractions & Activities
While your visit to Oswald’s Bear Ranch will likely be the highlight of your Newberry tour, there are several other must-see attractions and activities to enjoy. Some of the best things to do in Newberry and throughout the Upper Peninsula include:
- Horseback Riding — There are more than 25 miles of horseback riding trails in Luce County, and visitors will even find a dedicated equestrian campground inside of the Headquarters Lake State Forest Campground.
- Visiting Tahquamenon Falls — The Tahquamenon Falls are the largest waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula and some of the most magnificent falls in the Midwest. These cascading falls attract more and more visitors from across the country every year.
- Kayaking — The Tahquamenon River is a peaceful river with beautiful views, making it one of the best places to go kayaking in the Upper Peninsula.
Frequently Asked Questions About Oswald’s Bear Ranch
Who owns Oswald’s Bear Ranch?
Oswald’s Bear Ranch is a locally-owned facility and a family-run business. It was founded by Jewel and Dean Oswald. While Dean is still the owner and operator, there are several Oswald family members who work at the ranch.
How much does it cost to visit Oswald’s Bear Ranch?
It costs $20 per vehicle to visit Oswald’s Bear Ranch. However, there are separate rates for tour buses. Active military members can enter for free. Some activities, such as a photos with a bear cubs, require an additional fee.
Is Oswald’s Bear Ranch a seasonal attraction?
Yes, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is open daily from the end of May until late September. Exact opening and closing dates may vary each year.
Are dogs welcome at Oswald’s Bear Ranch?
No, animals are not welcome at the ranch because of the nature of the facility.