View Photo Gallery: The National Zoo’s new $42 million American Trail exhibit balances conservation-science needs against visitor-experience needs against animal-welfare needs.

The National Zoo is having a big week. In addition to monitoring the potential pregnancy of female giant panda Mei Xiang, the zoo is also planning to open its American Trail exhibit Saturday. The exhibit is the culmination of a five-year, $42 million project that will show off several popular North American species. DCist got a preview of the new trail and was particularly impressed with the atmosphere the exhibit is able to create.

“The National Zoo wants to make visitors forget they're actually in the middle of a steamy, noisy city. Instead, with its newest exhibit, it wants people to feel as though they're in a Pacific Northwest riverbed, or perhaps a rocky cove in Northern California.”

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