Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Great Rivers Museum complex shares river story

National Great Rivers Museum celebrating 10 Years
Ten years ago this October, the National Great Rivers Museum in Alton, Ill., opened to tell the story of the Mississippi River—its history, its wildlife, and the complexity of balancing the river’s many uses.

This river-side museum is adjacent to the river’s largest lock and dam, the Melvin Price Locks and Dam complex and across the river from a massive wildlife refuge that’s also managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District. The museum offers an unusual opportunity to learn about how humans relate to the river while actually doing that very thing.
Particularly popular is the chance to view wildlife— the hundreds to thousands of trumpeter swans, eagles and nesting white pelicans that frequent the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Mo. The complex of 3,700 acres of marshes, bays, interpretive opportunities and viewing celebrates its 25th  anniversary this year, while the museum celebrates its 10th.
Over the years, people have flocked
 here, and so has wildlife, bringing even
 more people. Tens of thousands (of both) visit each year, with human visitation growing with new opportunities like the on-premises Audubon Center at Riverlands. More than 80,000 people visited the museum alone in 2012, and 4.1 million to the rivers project office grounds—48 percent of those say “sightseeing” was the reason for their visit.
The partnership allows the Audubon staff to focus
 on bird education and conservation, and the Corps staff to focus on connecting people to the river, says Charlie Deutsch, supervisory wildlife biologist at the Corps’ River Project office. The agency’s multiple missions are also on display—never more clearly than from the tour that lets you walk atop the dam, 80 feet above the river, and see the distant miles of restored wetlands and prairies. The Corps has even created wildlife habitat for endangered terns atop repurposed barges.
Inside the museum, visitors get a close-up look at some of the river’s more common and unusual fish, listen to bird calls and drive a towboat through a
simulated river experience.

Also on display, and covered in regular tours, is information on how soil is made and erodes and how river models help scientists make important decisions affecting the river. At one station, visitors can estimate how much fresh water their household uses a day and at another visitors can learn of ways the Corps seeks to help protect the region from acts of nature like flooding.
For more visit: Our Mississippi

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