Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium Wins ‘Best Attraction’

Posted January 6th, 2018

Congrats to Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, recently named “the best new attraction in the country,” according to the results of an online vote by readers of 10Best, a travel website published by USA TODAY.

Here’s my review from when I visited the museum and aquarium last September.

It’s one of the best perks of this job of being an outdoors writer — getting a special invite to events such as the grand opening of Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, recently. We spent a September morning touring the beautiful space, but not all 350,000 square feet of it. That will merit return trips. We also witnessed a special press conference, conducted by students of the WOLF school with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who donned scuba gear and answered questions while in the shark tank.

 

Wonders of Wildlife exterior photo

(Wonders of Wildlife photo)

Visonionary and founder of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris, expanded the defunct Wonders of Wildlife Museum that sat next to the flagship store in Springfield, and increased its capacity by at least four. Morris welcomed us, surrounded by notables in the conservation world. “This facility,” he said, “is really all about sportsmen and women, hunters and anglers in our country that have meant so much to conservation, and make no mistake about it, we want to celebrate them. … It’s an amazing story and that’s the story we’re trying to tell.”

In this photo gallery, we tried to capture the essence and pulse of the numerous wildlife and art galleries and gallons of aquariums. We highly encourage you to explore this unique setting for yourselves at your earliest convenience. We think you’ll appreciate the results of the team here, which included at least 40 leading wildlife conservation agencies, along with 2,000+ talented painters, sculptors, artists, woodworkers, ironworkers, taxidermists, illustrators, designers,  and biologists.

Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

entrance bronze elk WOW

Check out this beautiful bronze in the entryway to the museum. (Jason Baird photo)

The museum contains 1.5 miles of trails leading into galleries that hold precious artwork and mounts.

distant hope sculpture WOW

This is a bronze sculpture titled “Distant Hope,” and it stands imposingly at the end of a gallery that features Native American artifacts. As with most things founder Johnny Morris does, there’s a story behind the object. Morris gave a generous donation to the Sheeva V. Foundation, which invests in the lives and the future of Native American children. Mark James is the sculptor. (Jason Baird photo)

teddy roosevelt wow

Do you recognize this dapper hunter? If you said, “Why, that’s Teddy Roosevelt!” you were correct. In a tribute to conservation, the museum created a reproduction of Roosevelt’s hunting cabin, Elkhorn Ranch, in North Dakota, from the late 1800s. Nearby, a visitor gets treated to The Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads and Horns, founded by former President Roosevelt, which includes mounts of at least 40 North American game animals. These animals once appeared at York’s Bronx Zoo in 1908. (Jason Baird photo)

artwork WOW museum

A special gallery holds the artwork, on loan, of Charles Fritz, known for plein-air pantings of Western history and landscape and in particular, the voyage of Lewis and Clark. Fritz traveled the trail and cast himself as a player in the journey, camping out from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast and capturing the light and atmosphere of each setting along the way. (Jason Baird photo)

elephants WOW museum

It’s one thing to go to a zoo, but it’s another thing to see beautiful mounts of African animals up close, where you can examine every detail. In the the Great African Hall, elephants create their own parade. Attention to climate has been paid throughout, and in this area, the temperature will be a bit higher than in other areas. (Jason Baird photo)

turkey vulture live wow museum

You will find plenty of live, wild animals onsite, as well. There are at least 34,000 aquatic creatures, and 1,000 other species, such as snakes, alligators, beavers, bears and this turkey vulture, shown with its handler. (Jason Baird photo)

aquarium petting zoo wow

It’s like a petting zoo underwater, where visitors can touch horseshoe crabs, starfish, a bamboo shark and more animals. (Jason Baird photo)

sheep museum WOW

It’s called the “4 D” experience, in that sights, sounds, temperatures and smells vary within the galleries. For example, in the Sheep Mountain gallery, a 7-minute timer creates a full day of light and dark exposure on the lovely animals. (Jason Baird photo)

cape buffalo WOW museum

Such attention to taxidermy detail. Can you spy the fly on the Cape buffalo’s nose? (Jason Baird photo)

clam shell WOW

Nature’s artwork. The backlighting is gorgeous and shows off this clam shell perfectly. (Jason Baird photo)

national parks dioramas WOW

One of our favorite galleries held life-size dioramas or scenes in our National Parks. Check out this incredible one.  (Jason Baird photo)

entrance to WOW aquarium Johnn Morris

When it’s time to go from turf to surf, it’ll be a grand entrance. Check out the beautiful signage for the aquarium, which holds more than 1.5 million gallons of freshwater and saltwater habitats, filled with creatures of the sea. (Jason Baird photo)

Harry Truman fishing boat WOW

There’s a special section, dedicated to presidents who fish. Here’s Harry S Truman, looking rather stress free. The collection also includes Bass Force One, George Bush’s personal float boat. (Jason Baird photo)

Johnny Morris tuna boat at WOW

Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris donated his tuna boat for a display, and check out the action below the boat. (Jason Baird photo)

gift shop wow museum

The gift shop offers something for everyone to remember a special day and time, and the memories evoked from a walk through this fantastic place. (Jason Baird photo)

For hours and fees, visit the Wonders of Wildlife website.

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