Fish & Ships

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The Mississippi River is well worth reading about,” said Mark Twain, who probably wrote more about it than anyone else. Since the “Big Muddy” is less than an hour from our Dodgeville, Wisconsin, headquarters, we thought it was worth a blog post at the very least. It turns out that US Highway 151 takes us straight to Dubuque, Iowa, right past the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Housed in two waterfront buildings, the museum features exhibits on the river’s cultural and natural history. Fresh- and saltwater tanks showcase many of the creatures that inhabit the river’s 2,320-mile length from its source in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, from catfish to otters to alligators. There’s even a shark or two, and lots of turtles.

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Besides the critters, kids will love the “splash zone” in the RiverWorks exhibit, where they can turn on a rain cloud to feed the source of a mini Mississippi and push boats downstream through locks and past a working waterwheel (the museum provides aprons so kids won’t get soaked). The Carver Wet Lab gives them hands-on experience with the river’s wildlife — kids can touch a mussel or a crayfish’s tail.

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For the mechanically inclined, there’s a riverboat museum and the W. M. Black, a 1934 steam dredger. Although we didn’t get to it this time, the museum also shows river-related movies in a 3D/4D “Immersion Theater” featuring special effects that bring the on-screen action to life.

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If you go, you should plan on spending most of the day there, since there really is a lot to experience. Did we mention the octopus?

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