In Dubuque, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is the country’s definitive interpretive institution for the Mississippi River.
The museum comprises two buildings on the Dubuque riverfront with a number of exhibits and experiences for visitors. Guests can explore a canal, a river cave and other geological features of the Mississippi in the RiverWays gallery.
Another exhibit traces the path of the Mississippi River all the way to the sea, and a large-format “4D” Immersion Theater uses special effects like wind, mist, seat music and smells of the on-screen images.
On Memorial Day, the museum will open its newest components, the Mississippi Plaza and the Riverfront Marina. The outdoor plaza will connect the two museum buildings and will have a living stream with buffalo fish, carp and other river fish.
Visitors will be able to feed fish at several stations, walk across pedestrian bridges, interact with dancing water fountains and board a Huck Finn raft for an experience on the water.
The Mississippi River has long been the economic lifeblood of eastern Iowa, but it is also an important part of the area’s ecology. In May, the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center will open in Clinton, giving visitors a look at the ecological diversity of the river in Iowa.
A centerpiece of the center will be a 20-foot-long, 9,000-gallon aquarium stocked with Mississippi River fish species. A large wetlands display will highlight the reptiles, amphibians and other animals that live in the backwaters and sloughs of the Mississippi River.
In addition to live animals, the Eco Center will also house a large collection of replicas of the largest fish ever caught in the state. The collection includes record-setting large-mouth bass and flathead catfish, in addition to many other species.
Trestle on a trail
More than 670 miles of trails crisscross the state as part of the Central Iowa Trail System, giving outdoor enthusiasts a wealth of ways to experience the state’s natural scene. The newest addition to the trail system is the High Trestle Trail, which stretches 25 miles from Ankeny to Woodward in the Des Moines area.
The trail is named for the 2,300-foot-long, 13-story high bridge that spans the Des Moines River. Once a railroad trestle used to carry freight trains across the river, the trestle was repurposed as part of a $14 million project to create the trail.
The long bridge is notable not only for its size but also its inventive modern architecture. Squared arches wrapped above the walking path give the illusion of a spinning picture frame and light up in a neon blue spectacle at night.
A daytime trip across the trestle gives visitors a leisurely outdoor walk and panoramic views of the river valley below.