Up in Door travel blog

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Paddlefish open their moths to scoop up food and filter it

Open-mouthed paddlefish


River otter

River otter playing and having a great time

Clam shells used to make buttons

Clam shell buttons were great

He was smiling for us

Side-wheeler steamboat

View of downtown Dubuque

Mississippi River in distance

County Courthouse really stands out

Fenelon Place Elevator

Really steep!

Quite a hill!

Chocolate turtle we bought (and ate) in honor of our turtle-loving granddaughter

Davenport, IA We spent the day exploring Dubuque (10th largest city in the state) and left a lot undone because of lack of time. The National Mississippi Museum & Aquarium campus includes over a dozen aquariums featuring wildlife of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico and other river systems, including giant catfish, sturgeon, turtles, rays, octopus, river otters, and more. There are also outdoor exhibits featuring river otters, a marsh, and artifacts such as steam boilers, boats, a blacksmith shop, and raptor aviaries including bald eagles and red-tail hawks. Factoid: Clam fishermen dredged the river bed for clams, which they sold to buyers. The buyers sold the clam contents to hog farmers and the clam shells to factories. Hence, there were two major industries — button manufacturing and hog slaughtering. The button industry ended with the introduction of plastic buttons. The hog-slaughtering business still exists in Iowa, but the animals no longer have a clam diet. We toured the 277’ long and 85’ wide side-wheeler steamboat, the William M Black. We learned that 1 barge equals 60 trucks. The largest tow in the world was a tow pushing 56 coal barges measuring 7 acres. Also the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works, 2nd oldest boat manufacturer in the US, built lots of different types of boats including sub-chasers to fight German U-boats. Grease for the launching slide was difficult to find during the war. For one launch, bananas were pureed and spread on the wooden rails to allow the completed ship to slide into the water. No trip to Dubuque is complete without a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator, a 3’ narrow gauge funicular railway and the shortest and steepest in the world. And there is a very conveniently placed candy/ice-cream shop right at the bottom of the elevator.

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