About Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of the nation’s most beautiful and inspiring botanical gardens. The Zoo first opened its gates to the local community on April 25, 1974, and has continued for more than four decades to provide individuals, families and groups with a common place to connect with and learn about the world’s wildlife and wild places. Today Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the United States and South Carolina’s leading destination attraction, boasting a national reputation as one of America’s best zoos and drawing one million visitors annually.

In June 1995 Riverbanks Botanical Garden opened to the public. The extraordinary garden blooms year-round with more than 4,300 species of native and exotic plants and provides a living classroom for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The formal Walled Garden offers a picture-perfect location for weddings and special events. One of Riverbanks’ newest attractions, Waterfall Junction, opened April 7, 2016. The 3-acre interactive children’s garden within the Botanical Garden inspires exploration, imagination and nature play with tree houses, a dinosaur bone dig, splash zones and plenty of room to roam.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, Riverbanks is also the site of structural remains dating back to the early 1800s with South Carolina’s textile industry and the Civil War. Historic ruins can be seen from various locations along the footbridge linking the Zoo and Garden as well as along the naturally wooded River Trail.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. We are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for our animals and plants, delivering a diverse educational and high-quality recreational experience for all Riverbanks visitors, and utilizing all available resources for the conservation of the earth's flora and fauna.

Executive Biographies

Thomas K. “Tommy” Stringfellow President & CEO

With nearly 30 years of experience in the zoo and attractions industries, Thomas K. Stringfellow is only the third executive to oversee the Zoo in its 43-year-history. He began his career at Riverbanks in 2002 as director of marketing and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011. Stringfellow was named president and CEO in August of 2017.

Prior to his tenure at Riverbanks, Stringfellow directed sales and marketing for various theme parks across the United States including Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Whitewater Water Park and American Adventures Family Entertainment Center and Six Flags Great Escape and Water Park.

For nearly two decades Stringfellow has been dedicated to ensuring Riverbanks’ continued growth, financial success and leadership in the field of conservation. During his inaugural year as president, Riverbanks was named Best South Carolina Attraction by readers of USA Today. The Zoo also welcomed nearly 1.3 million guests and celebrated numerous births including a giraffe calf, two western lowland gorillas, and five African lion cubs.

An active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, he has served terms on the Marketing Advisory Committee for AZA and both the Columbia Metropolitan of Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Atlanta Convention and Tourism Board. He is an active member of the community and served on the Board of Directors for Palmetto Health’s Camp Kemo.

Stringfellow is a native South Carolinian and is married with two sons and one daughter.

Jan H. Stamps Chair, Riverbanks Park Commission

Jan H. Stamps, a long-time supporter of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, has served as a member of the Riverbanks Park Commission since 2006. Prior to joining the Commission, she served two terms as a board member for Riverbanks Society. Over her tenure, Stamps has been involved several times in the rigorous accreditation process by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the 2014 Destination Riverbanks bond referendum, and the development of Riverbanks’ vision for the future, Bridge to the Wild. In 2017, Stamps aided in the national search for Riverbanks’ new Chief Executive Officer.

Stamps spent years dedicated to the family business, Southern Anesthesia and Surgical, Inc. Stamps is a life-long resident of Cayce-West Columbia and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of South Carolina.

Learn more about Riverbanks Park Commission.

Tristan K. Weinkle, DVM, DACVIM President, Riverbanks Society Board of Directors

Dr. Tristan Weinkle has served on the Riverbanks Society Board of Directors since January 2019 and was elected as President of the Society Board in November 2022.

A Cornell University alumnus, Weinkle has been a veterinary internist in the Columbia, South Carolina area for nearly 20 years. He currently runs a business focused on mobile veterinary services with an emphasis on education and training and is involved in multiple veterinary-related projects. Weinkle and his family are avid supporters of the Zoo. He also serves on the executive committee of the 701 CCA Center for Contemporary Art and is a member of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Advisory Council.

Learn more about Riverbanks Society.