The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store in Springfield, Missouri is now open, and it is a celebration of fish and wildlife like nothing else in the world.
The vision of Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, comes alive in this incredible testament of his devotion to honoring the conservation legacy of North America and beyond. As you make your way through the museum and aquarium, you pass through wildlife and habitat displays from different parts of the world, including the Rocky Mountains, southern bayous, plains of Africa and Arctic Tundra. The aquarium takes you through many different fish habitats, including fresh water, salt water, swamps, coastal and deep ocean.
Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said, “Wonders of Wildlife is a place every American kid should have to come. Because I think one of the best ways to inspire the next generation of conservationists is getting young kids engaged with wildlife. This is a great place to begin.”
Your journey through the 350,000-square-foot complex introduces you to 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Hundreds of mounted fish, birds and mammals are found throughout the museum. Much of the taxidermy is complimented by hand painted backgrounds, making the scenes so life-like you think twice before leaning in too close.
To complete the entire experience, you’ll cover more than 1.5 miles. Trails wind through diverse landscapes and habitats. Aquatic displays include pools where guests can touch stingrays on the ocean floor. This journey is more than just visual. You’ll experience the sounds, smells and climates of some of the wildest places on earth.
Galleries of art, especially those dedicated to the Native Americans, are breathtaking. Special sections of the museum include the Boone & Crockett Club’s National Collection of Head and Horns, the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the International Game Fish Association’s Hall of Fame, and a special tribute past U.S. Presidents who were or remain anglers.
Wonders of Wildlife is so much more than a museum and aquarium. It’s a monument for conservation. This is a must see destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, and all of us who hunt and fish owe Mr. Johnny Morris a tip of the old Bass Pro cap for all he has done to support the conservation, which is simply the future’s ability to live as we live today.
“I’ve been very blessed my whole life. I grew up here in the Ozarks fishing on the White River with my mom and dad ever since I was a kid, and I’ve been so fortunate, really blessed, that my whole life I’ve been around something I love and that’s fishing and the outdoors,” Morris said.
Johnny Morris has been called the modern day Theodore Roosevelt. The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is an astounding complexity of fish, wildlife, natural resources and Native American cultural. Teddy would certainly tip his cap to Morris for this amazing contribution to the hunters, anglers and general wildlife enthusiasts of the world.
A day before officially opening to the public on September 21, 2017, Morris hosted media at Wonders of Wildlife. He enlisted outdoor industry friend and celebrities to help him welcome writers, photographers, and television and radio hosts from around the country. Standing with Morris is (left to right): Jerry Martin, Bob Foulkrod, Jim Shockey and Rob Keck.
Bass Pro Shops is rooted in humble beginnings. This replica showcases how Bass Pro began in his father’s liquor store. A company that began with 8-square feet of retail space, now includes stores and destinations across America.
Although Morris is an incredibly reserved and humble man, he has become a rock star in the world of conservation. His Bass Pro Shops family of companies, which now includes Cabela’s, contributes millions of dollars each year to conservation across the globe.
With 1.5 million gallons of world-class aquarium adventures through freshwater and saltwater habitats, this aquarium rivals the greatest in tow world. You will see everything from largemouth bass pushing 20-pounds to creatures from the deepest darkest depths of the oceans.
A scuba divers welcomes attendees in a gigantic cylinder shaped space displaying a recreation of a ship Morris sunk off the coast of Florida to jumpstart reef growth and provide critical habitat for saltwater marine life. Actor Mark Wahlberg dove in the tank later the same day.
Conservation is theme of the entire Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. The operation is a 501c3 with all proceeds going to benefit fish and wildlife. “I think our company and the outdoor industry, we all have a real obligation to give back to the future of the sports we love and have been our livelihood. This museum and aquarium is one way we can do that in a unique way. The whole facility is about celebrating the role that hunters and anglers have played in the country,” Morris said.
With 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, many of the displays are living replicas of what the natural world really looks like. Wonders of Wildlife is a great place to introduce children to our natural world.
This giant spider crab came from the deep ocean off the coast of Japan. Many creatures you can hardly believe are real crawl about the aquariums throughout the complex. A single crab leg from one of these monsters would be a meal by itself.
Fresh water species are well represented, too, like these rainbow trout that can be found in many Ozark rivers near Springfield. Largemouth bass, paddle fish, catfish and alligator gar are just a few of the other fish species found across America that you will see at Wonders of Wildlife.
There are times and places in the aquarium that allow you to really get a close up view. If you are in a Bass Pro Shops and hear a man come on the loud speaker telling you about something special going on, that’s likely Larry Whiteley, the official voice of Bass Pro. Here, Whiteley gets an up close and personal look at a mess of piranhas from a viewing port.
Many different aquatic habitats exist in the aquarium. This tank has many coastal species of fish and sea life. The rumor is Morris personally caught the giant grouper found swimming in this tank.
Swimming with Sharks
Species comingle as they would in the natural world. Sometimes the sharks get hungry. A true representation of what takes place in the wild in found throughout the complex.
Boats are an important part of fishing and an important part of Bass Pro Shops business. Morris’ White River Marine Group is now the largest boat producer in the world. So it is fitting that Morris has a replica of one of the most famous fishing boats ever in the museum, Ernest Hemingway’s Pilar.
Johnny Morris Tuna Boat
Not to be out done by Papa, Morris has put on display his own personal first tuna boat. Saltwater fishing is another important category for Bass Pro, and it is very well represented at Wonders of Wildlife.
Bass Force One
You likely know about Air Force, the personal plane of every United States President. But are you aware of Bass Force One, the personal float boat of George Bush? Morris had the special boat created especially for his good friend who worked as president on legislation to the betterment of anglers everywhere.
Native American Art
Johnny Morris often speaks of the first American hunters and fishers. He has gone to great lengths to honor the legacy of our Native Americans at Wonders of Wildlife. There are impressive artifacts and world-class works of art in a great hall dedicated to legacy of those who came before us.
This display is just one of hundreds depicting real life situations wildlife experience in nature. The lifelike taxidermy takes you into the setting. With hand painted murals in many of the displays, it can at times be hard to believe what you are looking at is not actually alive.
There are world record animals to been seen at Wonders of Wildlife, but more so there are true representations of what nature normally has to offer, like these beautiful sitka blacktail bucks.
Predator and Prey
The museum isn’t set up to just show visitors what the animals on display look like. It goes much deeper to give a glimpse into what their lives are like. In this scene you see the defense mechanism of musk ox as they band together on open ground to fend off the attack of hungry wolves.
Theodore Roosevelt is considered by many to be the greatest conservationist America has ever known. His legacy is woven throughout the entire Wonders of Wildlife National Museum. It seems as if he is peeking out from behind every corner, watching to make sure we carry his legacy forward for our generation and generations to come.
Most parts of the world are represented in the museum. The Africa experience is exceptional. The Great African Hall, immersing guests in the African savannah with animals including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, crocodiles, zebra and more under the dry sun of the African Savannah.
Hunting is an adventure, and sometimes those adventures are dangerous, as depicted in this incredible scene where a ferocious looking male lion is stalking the tent of hunters slumbering in the bush.
It doesn’t matter if you have never seen a deer in the wild before, or if you have traveled the world over in pursuit of wildlife like Jim Shockey, the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium will impress everyone who wanders it halls. Shockey said, “Johnny is our leader in conservation. This is going to become the center of conservation. A celebration of what hunters, and anglers and outdoors-people have done for the wildlife of this world.”
Johnny Morris never stops dreaming of ways to inspire young people to venture outdoors. His Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) is a year-long educational opportunity for a select group of Springfield, Missouri fifth-graders. The experience allows these fortunate students to explore a curriculum of science through the context of nature and conservation. They attend class in a special facility at the Bass Pro Shops Wonders of Wildlife Museum and wherever their next outdoor learning experience takes them. A lot of their actual education comes from hands-on experiences in the field.
Uncle Buck took his nephew Johnny fishing when he was a boy. The inspiration found in simple float trips led Johnny Morris to create the largest empire the outdoor industry has ever known. This is proof of what can happen if you heed Johnny’s advice and “Take a kid fishing, you’ll be glad you did.”