Wallaby Ranch is easily one of the most surprisingly outstanding experiences I’ve had on my day trips in Washington state. It’s not every day, month or even year that you get the opportunity to have such an intimate encounter with an animal so traditionally thought of as exotic in our region of the world. That is exactly what you get at this ranch, though.
Visiting Fall City
The Google reviews for this destination were overwhelmingly positive as a consensus, with individual recollections of poor customer service and booking inflexibility strewn within. After going myself, I’d like to chalk these up to visitor expectations of last-minute accommodations. Please do not let these deter you from visiting, yourself. We were last-minute bookings and Rex, the owner, was cordial with us, as we were cordial with him.
Fall City is a quaint town roughly 35 minutes outside Seattle. We stopped and had brunch at a café called the Raging River and it was spectacular, with a down-to-earth hospitality and amazing food. Wallaby Ranch was only about five minutes away from there. Rolling green pastures went on for acres as we turned into the winding driveway, lined with tall, protective trees. The owner greeted us as the first customers to arrive. “Early bird gets the worm,” Rex said with a grin.
Learning About Wallabies
As the rest of the group trickled in, we were welcomed into the barn for an introductory video (one that Rex said his wife, Tawny, regularly encouraged him to shorten). It opened with a slideshow of personal photos of him and his family with the kangaroos as they grew up. It then segued into a description of the layout of the land the ‘roos are kept on, their anatomy and clips of their fetal development taken by National Geographic at his very ranch. He is a USDA licensed breeder of grey and albino Bennett’s wallabies and red kangaroos, and has created a beautiful ranch on which these clearly loved creatures can roam.
As he answered the audience’s questions honestly and earnestly, you could tell that this man’s relationship with his kangaroos is integral to him — these animals are absolutely family. He beamed with pride over his work, and the research he’s put into his literary and experiential understanding of the species shines through for all his visitors to see.
That being said, he was refreshingly candid about the process of domesticating these incredibly strong and potentially dangerous animals. Some audience members challenged him on how he could separate mother from child so clinically. While remaining calm and factual, he addressed that owning any domestic animal requires the same process, and the hands-on experience they as patrons sought out at his establishment is the difference between Wallaby Ranch and the zoo. I couldn’t argue — to refute his logic is hypocritical as a common dog or cat owner.
After the video was watched and our questions were answered, he brought in the sweetest, softest, most heart-wrenchingly adorable critter I’d laid my eyes on in some time. A young ‘roo uncurled its head out of the warm, manmade pouch Rex was carrying and greeted us curiously. It hopped the length of the barn back and forth, over and over again, stopping to sniff various visitors along the way. Rex even let us hold the little one, cradling it like a baby as its big doe eyes gazed into ours. And that was just the beginning.
We then ventured outside to the area where the adults were residing. My first encounter was with a small female named Victory (if memory serves me, and if not, please forgive me). Rex gave out small strips of bread we could feed them by hand or by mouth, Lady and the Tramp style. Victory was gentle, unassuming and graceful. She stayed near me for quite some time, licking my cheek and nuzzling into my hand as I pet her. She was absolutely delightful.
Another kangaroo I got a chance to spend some up-close time with was a remarkably muscular, powerfully large male with a laid-back demeanor (whose name escapes my selective memory). He tolerantly accepted my petting him, which left a faint red residue on my hand comprised of what Rex later explained was testosterone (similar in texture but not color to the film you get after petting a horse). He also took bread from us, carefully and kindly. It was a very novel and humbling experience.
We all talked together and listened to Rex’s experiences and lessons learned with the kangaroos as the sun went down slowly. By allowing outsiders to create shared, hands-on experiences with these animals, he is helping raise awareness and educate people about them in a way that is impossible to do through textbooks, documentaries and fundraisers alone. People generally care more about things if it directly affects them, and this place definitely affects you. This man has so many stories to tell about his life with these wallabies, and the connection he feels with each of them. It was an honor to visit, and we will definitely be back.
Photos by Jason Needham.