An easy way to bring out my childlike sense of wonder is to visit an aquarium. I have been an avid freshwater fish-keeper since I was a child. I primarily attribute my love for aquatic life and wildlife in general to my childhood, spending most of my time outdoors, absorbed in nature.
For reference, I have visited the following aquariums:
- The Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, Illinois)
- The Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, California)
- The Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, Georgia)
- The Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
- The Newport Aquarium (Newport, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio).
Even after visiting some truly striking aquariums, I can honestly say that the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife (WoW) National Aquarium and Museum is my favorite. Recently awarded both the USA Today Best Aquarium and Best New Attraction awards, visitors can expect a remarkable experience.
The Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium is not only an aquarium; WoW possesses a very impressive collection of sport-fishing memorabilia laced throughout the museum and is home to various birds, reptiles and a small collection of mammals native to the Missouri Ozarks. Each segment of the museum is painstakingly crafted and designed to make visitors feel immersed in every scene. I cannot imagine the level of planning and detail that went into this establishment. It is truly impressive.
Upon entry, visitors are presented with a 360-degree display featuring a colorful selection of saltwater fish. Progressing into the main aquarium, contained within a massive cylindrical tank is a large school of fish, continuously in motion as sharks patrol nearby.
Often referred to as a “bait ball”, fish swim in a circular motion in an attempt to confuse predators, such as the resident sharks in this tank.
The Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium is a mixture of wildlife exhibits and a vast collection of sport-fishing memorabilia. Literature, historic documents and photographs, trophies and more are on display for visitors to view.
Historical photographs show various moments in sport-fishing history, and show the close friendship between Johnny Morris and the presidential Bush family.
A shark slinkily swims beneath.
The aquarium is not only home to saltwater fish; it proudly features local freshwater fish like these beautiful trout.
A lizard peers at me through its log-shaped enclosure.
Various reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, birds, beavers and otters live here. A pair of black bears traverse both an indoor and outdoor enclosure.
The aquarium also features impressive still-life displays throughout the museum. This display illustrates a group of men fishing in rough waters as they face an impending sea storm off in the distance.
Garden Eels gently sway in the water current.
The serenity of the Jellyfish Exhibit is always a favorite of mine. I tend to spend more time observing jellyfish than any other part of an aquarium.
Wonders of Wildlife has curated an impressive collection of fresh and saltwater shells. Though obviously not as comprehensive as the shell-dedicated Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida, the WoW assemblage is certainly noteworthy.
A tiny poison dart frog sits atop a rock formation.
This iguana descended from his perch to feed on leafy greens below.
An albino alligator appears nearly frozen as it carefully surveys over its dominion.
Attached to plants, this dainty seahorse sways in the gentle current.
A Japanese Spider Crab rests atop a sunken dome structure.
Albino catfish skim the water’s surface for food. Guests can purchase a handful of pellets in a nearby dispenser.
Members of the cichlid family, it is not surprising that the male Peacock Bass display moderate territorial aggression towards each other. The encounters are brief but intimidating.
The decor and foliage of each segment creates a truly immersive experience.
At the conclusion of the self-guided tour, visitors reach the base of a large cylindrical tank. Displayed as a sunken ship setting, various fish and rays swim around the tank, much to the delight of the viewers. Activity stations for children, an interactive video wall and a small gift shop await visitors upon their exit. Though I have conflicting personal opinions about animals in captivity, I usually err to the side of appreciating zoos and aquariums for the educational services to the public, especially children. I found the enclosures to be well designed with plenty of room and enrichment for the inhabitants.
I was thoroughly impressed with the level of detail and care that went into the design of WoW. Throughout the tour there are several beverage and food stations, plenty of trash bins and restrooms and easy access to elevators. Each segment of the museum is thoughtfully designed to make the visitor feel totally immersed in the scenery. There is an additional Wildlife Museum attached to the Aquarium, though we did not have time to visit that portion. Another trip is in our future!
I have enjoyed traveling around the country to visit major aquariums, but have always found it odd that Saint Louis does not have its own. Outside of the smaller aquarium that was once located on the second floor of the City Museum and the new addition of the aquariums at the Saint Louis Zoo, a dedicated aquarium has been missing from the city. Last year, it was announced that a large section of the highly underutilized Union Station would be converted into an aquarium. Construction of the Aquarium at Union Station began in the Fall of 2017, with completion anticipated in 2019.
Technical Info: Canon 5DMK3, Canon 50mm f/1.2L