Boating - - MAKING WAVES -

On Septem­ber 21, 2017, Johnny Mor­ris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine Group, cut the rib­bon to the Johnny Mor­ris’ Won­ders of Wildlife Na­tional Mu­seum and Aquar­ium in Spring­field, Mis­souri. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a four­decade quest that, some might say, was the driv­ing force be­hind his de­vel­op­ment of the world’s grand­est out­door sport­ing em­pire.

The 350,000-square­foot com­plex hous­ing the mu­seum and aquar­ium fea­tures more than 1.5 miles of trails through re­al­is­tic wildlife habi­tats and 1.5 mil­lion gal­lons of fresh­wa­ter and salt­wa­ter aquar­i­ums. The Won­ders of Wildlife con­tains 35,000 live fish, mam­mals, rep­tiles, am­phib­ians and birds dis­played in their nat­u­ral habi­tats.

“This fa­cil­ity is re­ally all about sports­men and women, hunters and an­glers in our coun­try that have meant so much to con­ser­va­tion,” Mor­ris said to press and dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing Ge­orge W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Kevin Cost­ner and Mark Wahlberg. “We want to cel­e­brate them and how much they meant to fish and wildlife, and for that mat­ter, our whole way of life in this coun­try,” he said.

The salt­wa­ter and fresh­wa­ter aquar­i­ums, in­clud­ing the hyp­no­tiz­ing bait­ball tank filled with whirling her­ring and cir­cling sharks, of­fered a view of the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween prey and preda­tor not pos­si­ble to wit­ness any­where else. The tow­er­ing ship­wreck reef, a re-cre­ation of a de­com­mis­sioned ship in­ten­tion­ally sunk by Mor­ris off the coast of Florida, was im­pres­sive in show­ing how var­i­ous species of marine life flock to a man-made habi­tat. Won­ders of Wildlife tick­ets range from $9.95 for children to at­tend the aquar­i­ums to $39.95 for adult combo passes. The Won­ders of Wildlife mu­seum will be open 364 days per year. WOW, as it’s known in the of­fices of Bass Pro Shops and White River Marine Group, is the per­fect acro­nym for this, Johnny Mor­ris’ stun­ning com­pi­la­tion of all things out­doors. For more in­for­ma­tion on Won­ders of Wildlife, visit won­der­sofwildlife.org. —John Ne­po­radny Jr.

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