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Susan's Travels Tours + Trips
May 03, 2014, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal

Courtesy National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
BE TOM SAWYER AT THE NATIONAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM AND AQUARIUM IN DUBUQUE. The Raft Ride lets visitors to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium get a flavor of a bygone time by pulling themselves across a lagoon. The extensive museum complex, which sits directly on the Mississippi in Dubuque, Iowa, includes a fleet of historical vessels, aquariums of river wildlife, and a Hall of Fame honoring notable people connected with the river’s history.

OL’ MAN RIVER WELCOMES VISITORS: THE NATIONAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM AND AQUARIUM IN DUBUQUE, IOWA TELLS THE STORY OF AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT WATERWAY. The Mississippi River rolls more than 2,300 miles from Northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, collecting water from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. In Dubuque, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, sitting directly on the river at the juncture of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, tells the story of this majestic watershed and of the man-made and natural world connected to it. The museum, a property of the Dubuque County Historical Society, has two centers on its 5-acre campus, the Mississippi River Center and the National River Center. The complex is broken into thematic areas, filled with a multitude of engaging exhibits and hands-on activities.

RIVER OTTERS, GIANT CATFISH AND BALD EAGLES. Six large aquariums and a collection of aviaries hold thousands of examples of the fish, birds and other wildlife found in and around the Mississippi River, including a pair of rescued bald eagles. Museum Educator and Retired Professor Dr. Daniel J. K. Bardy said: “What makes the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium special is the vast array of species displayed from headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico. Species include paddlefish dating back to the dinosaur era, five-foot-long nose gars, an alligator, otters, beavers, a young black nosed shark, a puffer fish, smiling cow rays, a green moray eel and a Northwest Pacific coast giant white octopus. What surprises visitors? How much there is to experience and explore and the multi-media presentations.”

A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK THAT FLOATS. The largest of the museum artifacts is the 277-foot-long William M. Black, a 1934 steam-propelled, side-wheel dustpan dredge. The Black, designated a National Historic Landmark, is one of only four preserved historic U.S. Corps of Engineers river dredges. Floating next to the Black is its tender boat, Tavern, a 43-foot-long diesel towboat. The museum’s extensive small-craft collection, documenting the small boats on the Mississippi River throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, includes a 1905 leisure boat, a 1908 birch bark canoe, and a 1929 fishing flatboat.

PEOPLE OF THE RIVER. Jolliet and Marquette, Lewis and Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Louis Armstrong. The museum’s National Rivers Hall of Fame honors those who have made significant contributions related to America’s rivers and river industries, including pathfinders, builders, inventors, artists, writers and musicians. Visitors can immerse themselves in the keelboat audio exhibit, enjoy the steamboat invention theater and steer barges in a modern towboat pilothouse simulator.

THE ‘WOW” FACTOR. Museum Conservation Biologist and Educator Chris Stangl said: “The reaction of our visitors can be summarized by these three letters ... ”WOW.” This amazed excited reaction springs from sources as diverse as the backgrounds of our visitors. International visitors are often most “WOWed” by the scope and biological diversity nurtured by the river. The “WOW” reaction from our local visitors typically results from the realization of the biological and historical gem they have been living near for years. From the animals and biological import of the Mississippi to the industrial importance and rich history, the facets of this amazing gem hold at least one WOW for every visitor.”

MUSEUM PARTICULARS: The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is located at 350 East Third St. Port of Dubuque. The Captain William Bowell River Library, housed in the museum’s archives, has more than 20,000 items for river research. An immersion theater presents large-format 3-D sights and 4-D special effects, including dramatic sound, wind, mist, seat movement, and smells of the on-screen action. For more information visit www.rivermuseum.com.

RIVER RIDES ON THE MISSISSIPPI. The Spirit of Dubuque, docked on the Mississippi near the museum, offers daily sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises. The Spirit is a replica of a century-old Mississippi River steamboat with decorative smokestacks, a scalloped canopy over its open-air deck, and Victorian red and gold decor throughout the enclosed dining salon. http://www.dubuqueriverrides.com.

AND REMEMBER: A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself. — Laura Gilpin.

Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at susan@smdailyjournal.com. More of her stories may be found at http://ifwtwa.org/author/susan-cohn.



Tags: river, mississippi, museum, national, visitors, dubuque,

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