The Mississippi River is as important to citizens in ten states today as it was to Native Americans and the first American settlers. The Mississippi River is the second longest river in America, stretching over 2,340 miles. The Mississippi River continues to function as a transportation source, water supply and commerce route. The river has been named multiple times to American River’s Most Endangered Rivers. Outdated flood management and oil spills seem to be the principal threats. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, brings to life the ecosystems along the waterway to promote conservation and an appreciation for the wildlife and humans that have called the Mississippi home over the years, as well as some saltwater life that was transported to the aquarium.
40,000 Gallon Aquarium: A 40,000 gallon aquarium is the main attraction at the museum. Visitors may watch as a nurse shark, rays, eels and other fish swim past. This aquarium serves as a behind the scenes view into the actual daily life of salt water aquatic animals. Walter, a Pacific octopus, calls the aquarium home. Visitors may watch as aquarium staff interacts with Walter, as he retrieves food and solves mazes. Visitors hear a brief explanation about the salinity of the tank and water temperatures conducive for saltwater life.
National Rivers Hall of Fame: Early settlers and explorers that utilized the tributaries along the Mississippi for travel and food are listed in the National Rivers Hall of Fame. Mark Twain along with other writers and musicians that recorded life along the Mississippi in stories and song are included. The museum has a hands-on exhibit of the engineering achievement, known as the dam, that controls the river’s flow.
Titanic, The Artifact Exhibit: Dubuque Bank and Trust has sponsored the "Titanic, The Artifact Exhibit," at the museum. Replicas of the original boarding pass are handed to each museum guest at the beginning of the tour. Visitors explore actual artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic ship that sunk claiming more than 1500 lives. Room recreations retell some of the compelling stories behind the original ship’s guests
4-D Theater: "SpongeBob SquarePants 4D: The Great Jelly Rescue" and National Geographic Studio’s “Deepsea Challenge 3-D,” are currently showing in the museum's 4-D theater. Younger children will enjoy the SpongeBob movie while parents escape the summer heat in the air-conditioned theater. The "Deepsea Challenge 3-D," is an educational video showcasing aquatic life. A schedule is available on the website.
Summer: The museum and aquarium have switched to summer hours. The old jail and the Mathias Ham House are now open for the summer season as well. Military families will receive free admission through Labor Day Weekend. The free summer trolley is currently running for the next couple of months. Tickets for the Titanic Exhibit, aquarium and 4-D theater may be purchased online.
*Photo courtesy of Give Me a Hug by Chris Smith at Flickr’s Creative Commons.