National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Good morning, my friends. We're spending our last morning in Iowa as I'm writing this. We had occasion to drive on Dubuque's main street yesterday afternoon. I didn't realize how old the city is, and we were treated to a view of some very old buildings. It reminded us of Philadelphia. We ended up at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.

When we'd driven by the day before, I thought the place looked small-ish. We didn't realize it took up two large buildings, and there were at least three large vessels docked in the marina. So, it was not small, by any means. I liked this quote from Charles Kuralt, just inside the door.

Inside the first structure were artifacts related to the rivers of America, in general. The second structure covered the Mississippi River, specifically. In our travels, we've been reading about dugout canoes, and so it was fun to see one "in the flesh." They were created by setting a fire around the bottom of a tree trunk. When the tree was felled, another fire was started to shorten it to the proper length. Then the "innards" were meticulously carved and dug out using hand tools. Amazing.

Here's another one from a different angle.

There was a lot of fun stuff to look at here. As usual, I took a bazillion pictures. It was hard to winnow them down to a manageable lot. Most of them are self-explanatory, or they have an explanatory sign. The sign will appear before the object in the images that follow. Let me just tell you, if any dolls like these had been for sale in the store, I'd have had me one. I never intended to start a doll collection, but then I never intended to start a refrigerator magnet collection...nor a shot glass collection...nor a cat collection...shall I go on naming all the non-collection items I've collected?

We were a little confused when we came to the first part of the aquarium.

I've posted a video below. Mike and I are scuba divers, although we haven't been diving in years. We've done quite a bit of diving in the Caribbean, and so we recognized the fish in the video below as saltwater fish. Then, we realized these were fish you might see where the Mississippi meets the Gulf of Mexico...like the sign says. Duh. (Same rules apply for the video. If you can't see it, then click on the title of this post to be taken to the actual blog.)

There were a lot of inspirational signs and quotations. I've included the ones I liked best.

Now here's something. I once knew a nurse who worked on cruise ships. She actually climbed something like this after returning to the ship when she had to accompany a patient onto dry land to be hospitalized. Can you imagine? Not this camper.

I already knew this about how Samuel Clemens took his pen name of Mark Twain. Interesting to see the lead line.

And I couldn't resist posting this picture of the first woman to get a steam pilot's license. Pretty much everything I'm posting here was behind glass, and so I'm sorry about the reflections. It was hard to get a good picture of her.

And...wow. What a bummer for the Union soldiers described in this next catastrophe.

And who knew this? Not me.

The museum included lots of scale models of all kinds of sailing vessels. Some, we'd never heard of, and they were used in all sorts of ways. The one below cleared a log jam 150 miles long. You can see the "log" between the two hulls on the right side.

This was a sign on one of the exhibits. We didn't see any muskrats at the museum, but I did see two scurry across the road as we drove into the campground.

This next video was a stingray touch tank. Mike attempted to touch them, but they seemed not to want to be touched, and so we left them alone. Their bodies were about the size of large dinner plates. We've seen them much larger in our diving expeditions.


The museum had a lot of touch and try exhibits for kids. This would be a great place to bring elementary aged school children...even big kids enjoyed it. Mike was disappointed we weren't at the lock at Starved Rock when the boats went through. At this kids' exhibit, he was able to operate a lock with his hands.

This sign was posted on the outer wall of a wheelhouse.

The wheelhouse was situated next to a screen. When the wheel turned, it was as if the boat were turning, and one could get a feel for what it would have been like to pilot a riverboat.

We moved into the next building devoted to the Mississippi River. There was an open exhibit that contained some of the critters one might see, including these sleepy ducks. The one on the left showed his face just long enough for me to take a picture, and then he tucked his head under his wing again.

On the far side of the same display was this turtle, sitting motionless. We weren't sure he was real until he turned his head just a bit.

Ooooh...and who doesn't love a good snake exhibit? I think this is a Bullsnake.

Okay, and here's a critter with a face only a mother could love. What a weird animal!

His body was about two feet long.

And just look at that pretty face. Coochy-coo! I'll admit, I'm a little envious of that lacy collar.

Here's another weird-looking critter. This is a "gar."

That snout looks dangerous.

Here were some box turtles. These used to be so plentiful, we'd find them in the road and pick them up as pets while driving through the desert. Now, I never see them.

This next one is a snapping turtle. When I was a little girl living in North Carolina, we'd occasionally go swimming in ponds and lakes. I was always on the lookout for snapping turtles, terrified one was approaching and could probably eat me in a single bite. He doesn't look so tough here, does he? He was simply floating at the top of the tank with just his face out of the water.

This is a cat fish. I wanted him to pose so I could see his whiskers, which, in my humble opinion, is the best part of the cat.

Here's another snake, if the other one didn't give you the heebie-jeebies.

And oh my gosh...the otters. They were so funny, and they seemed to love the attention from people watching them.

Okay, so we'd covered both buildings by that time. Next stop was this log cabin.

The construction of the chimney was interesting.

Inside, it looked like this.

To the left of the image above was a stairway, presumably leading to a bedroom.

Standing in the opposite corner, it looked like this.

Looking up, the "ceiling" looked like this:

Back outside, our next stop was the William M. Black dredger. This picture was taken standing on the far side of the marina. It was hard to get a very good picture with so many obstacles in the way. Also, be sure and note the brick buildings of the city of Dubuque in the background.

Here's some information about it.

And here's how it worked.

On the right side of that sign was an illustration to accompany the explanation.

We were able to walk pretty much the whole boat. Here are some of the more interesting rooms.

This was the wheelhouse. That boy was madly pulling all the levers and basically touching things with great gusto.

Looking down a long hallway, cabin doors lined the left wall.

Here was a dining room. This was probably used by officers. There was another similar dining room to my left with two tables.

Interesting kitchen. We were looking for refrigeration units, but didn't see any. There was a locked door to the left of the image, and that room might have served as cold storage.

Okay, and there was just one more boat to check out. This was a towboat. It was docked right outside the Mississippi River building.

It was much smaller than the dredger. I took a lot of pictures of the insides of these boats, but they were filled with gears, and belts, and all sorts of things I can't explain. Also, in such a tangle of pipes, it's hard to identify anything or explain how it works. I didn't post any of those images.

I'll always post pictures of kitchens though. This was the kitchen of the towboat...a more modest affair.

It was also a smaller crew.

Okay, and from there, we had some lunch and took care of some business in town. 

I was delighted when Dubuque resident and blogging friend, Kathy, stopped by bearing gifts. Kathy apparently knows me well enough to know that I'm a sugar fiend. She brought some delicious candies, made right here in Dubuque.

Just look at all these accolades from magazines.

They're sort of like turtles with nuts and caramel inside. Dee-licious. We each had two. We'll pace ourselves.

Also, this deck of playing cards...always appreciated in an RV. I had to look up the game of Euchre. You can read how it's played right here.

Finally, this little hanging ornament. It's hanging with my refrigerator magnets now.

And this from a local newspaper. Lots of good stuff to do in this area.

So, thank you, Kathy. It was sweet of you to bring these gifts, and I was delighted to meet you.

Okay, so we're off to Nebraska today. Next on our sight-seeing agenda is the Henry Doorly Zoo & Museum in Omaha. They have an exhibit known as the Lied Jungle, America’s largest indoor rainforest, where we're told we can hear waterfalls crashing, see gibbons swinging, and feel the tropical environment surrounding us. It sounds interesting. Like walking through a huge aviary, only with bigger animals. That's all I know. Of course, I'll tell you all about it after our visit. 


Barbara said...

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake. ~ W. C. Fields.

Becky said...

I may have to take a day trip to the Museum. It sounds so much better than the one in Nashville. Thanks for sharing your travels.

Debbie said...

I love reading about your travels! My son is canoeing the Mississippi River right now. He started up in Minasota and is planning on doing the whole river! He was near Minneapolis this last week.

Bridget said...

Eucre is a midwest game for sure...you have to learn before you can go to any deer camps...you know about deer camps right? ;) You would have driven by a bunch when you went thru the U.P.

Jenny said...

What a fabulous museum. Our Maori people made dug out canoes like that in the early days, using axes and fire too. Such a long slow job, I imagine. They have a saying about the Wanganui River which was a big part of their lives, "I am the river, and the river is me". I think we could all relate to that. I love the beautiful native bead work too, it would have been great to see it up close.

Ray and Jeanne said...

So glad you enjoyed the museum. I hope you have time to cross the river back to Galena, Illinois, home to US Grant. You are only 15-20 minutes away. ~Jeanne

piecefulwendy said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the museum - I remember a few of those things you posted (and had forgotten others!). Those little candies look tasty!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Enjoyed reading about the museum and seeing the boats, both inside and out. Interesting to see the gar fish - I wonder if it's the same as the gar pike we have here. They're on the rare side and have razor sharp teeth that can do a number on you. Resident Chef caught one once and had it 'stuffed'.