Visitors at Wonders of Wildlife peering into Open Oceans aquarium

Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife for Conservation

Aquarium of Nature- Supersized

Larger than the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium opened to visitors on Sept. 22, 2017. Applause!

Nine years in the making, the aquariums and wildlife galleries at WOW are a testament to conservation.

Where in the world, other than the ocean, can you watch sharks circle a bait ball of herring … well, at Wonders of Wildlife.

Grand Opening

The Sept. 20 grand opening ceremony was grand. In preparation, Johnny Morris flew the official ribbon to the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport, Me. In a private ceremony, Pres. George H. W. Bush cut the ribbon with Barbara at his side to dedicate Wonders of Wildlife to conservation. Johnny flew the ribbon back to WOW for the official on-stage cutting and formal gala opening in Springfield, Mo.

KSDK News from St. Louis attended the grand-opening red carpet events and filmed guest interviews, speakers, and ribbon cutting.

Aquariums and wildlife exhibits extend for a mesmerizing 1.5 miles. The total aquarium water content is 1.5-million gallons. There are 35,000 live animals, including 8,000 species in the aquarium.

Open Ocean Aquarium
Open Ocean

You enter WOW through the Open Ocean circular aquarium, a 300,000-gallon, sea-water aquarium. It’s like entering a rotunda of aquatic wonders.

The biologists and marine experts formulate the sea water on site for the aquarium, providing never-ending, fresh sea water for its myriad of marine life.

World’s Funnest Aquarium

Mr. Grouper's fanclub
Grouper says hello

Crawl inside pop-up aquariums and watch fish circle you 360 degrees, or have a huge spider crab crawl atop your head. Or pop up into an aquarium filled with piranha or clown fish, where you are sure to spot Nemo darting in and out the anemone.

Pop-up in an aquarium bubble and watch Piranha
Pop-up in an aquarium bubble and watch Piranha

In Shark Alley, not only watch shark swim, but feed the shark or schedule a close encounter in a shark cage dive.

Look through the jaws of a Great White Shark. Watch your neon clothing glow under the luminous light beams. Watch divers swim with the fish.

Two Invertebrate Touch Exhibits await your journey through the aquarium. Touch stingray, sea stars – a blue sea star and a chocolate-chip sea star – horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs in conk shells, an Epaulette Shark, and a bamboo shark.

Before you leave, color a fish, octopus, sea horse, or turtle and watch it swim, thanks to the amazing technology at the aquarium. WOW is one of two aquariums with this ethereal, interactive display.

tecnology corner where you color a fish and watch it swim on the big screen
Color a sea creature and watch him swim

Photo album

The animals at Wonders of Wildlife are cared for by 40 biologists and educators. Many animals have been christened with names. Olive is a 3-month old toucan. Stitch is a three-toed box turtle. And of course, one of the beavers is named Bucky. Children love to touch noses with and talk to the Goliath Grouper, AKA, “Mr. Grouper” according to the children.

Dive in and watch videos from the grand opening of WOW
Diver in the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium welcomes visitors to Johnny Morris Aquarium and Wildlife Museum
Down under in the Great Barrier Reef

I watched the grand-opening broadcast live on TV.  We made it a popcorn and TV day and evening.

The event was well documented. You can surf the net and watch Tribute for Conservation, a 7-hour long, 2-part, film of the inaugural WOW event: (part 1) red carpet interviews with behind-the-scenes footage (part 2) evening black-tie gala ribbon cutting and concert.

The videos film the art and genius that went into making the amazing wildlife museum and aquarium. Celebrate Johnny Morris’s vision and the creative team who saw his vision to completion.

You learn about the heart of conservation, the driving force behind WOW. You see red carpet interviews with conservationists; national figures in fishing and hunting; NASCAR drivers; and a mermaid as you tour the dynamic wildlife galleries and aquarium featuring 35,000 different live animals from over 8,000 species.

During the grand-opening festivities, certified scuba diver and actor Mark Wahlberg made a surprise visit and suited up to dive in the Shipwreck Reef aquarium.

On stage during the evening gala and concert were visionary Johnny Morris; actor Kevin Costner, two fishing Presidents, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush; musicians, conservationists, and more.

Both videos of the days’ events can be viewed on social media, Facebook and YouTube.

Wildlife Museum Galleries …
Tim Burrows, designer and fabricator for Johnny Morris, stands underneath one of his team's creations at Wonders of Wildlife Natural Museum
Designer and fabricator Tim Burrows checks out one of his dome-light masterpieces at Wonders of Wildlife Natural Museum

The wildlife museum galleries are incredible. You enter the museum on an escalator flanked by a diorama of buffalo (American Bison).

As you view the galleries of the early plains, it’s clear to see the passion Johnny Morris has for our land and the first conservationists, the Native Americans. Dioramas, paintings, and sculptures all tell the story.

Wonders of Wildlife chronicles the history and heroes of wildlife conservation. There is an art gallery with nearly 100 original oil paintings by Charles Fritz detailing the journey of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

A modern rendition of Teddy Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross cabin, a safari, Boone and Crockett collection, national park dioramas and more….

We have spent days exploring the aquarium and the wildlife galleries.

Wow is complex with new exhibits and attractions being added to enrich your experience. Banners are up to announce penguins are coming in December –  just in time for Christmas.

Conservationists at Wonders of Wildlife share their mission and passion of celebrating people who hunt and fish and act as stewards of the land and water.

Published by

Patricia Wiskur

My love for art comes from years in the studio of Wiskur Productions, with my husband, Darrell Wiskur, a designer and photographer. Also, I was an editor and photographer in the real world for 17 years ... all the while, thankful for an artful life and cherished memories. Photos are ©2018 Darrell D. Wiskur