Located at the west end of the State Fair Grand Concourse, the DNR’s historic aquarium, pavilion and courtyard is a must-see for thousands of fair-goers each year.
Built in 1921, the wrap-around aquarium is the focal point of the pavilion, filled with Iowa fish of all shapes, sizes and species. Throughout the building, park rangers, conservation officers, environmental specialists, biologists, foresters and other staffers are on hand to field visitors’ questions. And, licenses and Iowa Outdoors magazine subscriptions are on sale in the southwest corner of the pavilion.
Through the west pavilion gates, created with metal trash collected during Iowa’s annual Project AWARE river clean-up, is the courtyard. Here, a pond of turtles, a prairie, a stream, a water bottle filling station, picnic tables, benches and plenty of shade all form a relaxing oasis for hot, weary fair-goers.
The mobile education exhibits along the north courtyard fence helps visitors learn how to make simple, everyday changes to help protect and improve the environment.
Three to five presentations are made daily on the courtyard stage including cooking demonstrations and live animal talks. The first day of the Fair and each Friday, Saturday and Sunday are dedicated to special theme days in the courtyard. For a list of courtyard theme days and daily stage presentations download the 2015 Iowa DNR Courtyard Schedule
The DNR’s pavilion and aquarium are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, throughout the fair.
“Gotta Do, Gotta See” checklist for the DNR 2015 State Fair Exhibit:
- Become an environmental or conservation superhero
- Gaze at the stained glass arches that aren’t glass
- Take a peek at a pint-sized RV
- Spot a full-sized replica of an eagle’s nest
- Marvel at the world’s largest birdhouse
- Challenge other visitors to a game of environmental Jeopardy
- Test your skills at the archery range
- Prove your knowledge of trees
- Flaunt the latest Iowa Outdoors tee shirt, free with a magazine subscription
- Say “cheese” as a bird, beast or superhero in a photo cutout
- Make fish lips at the lunkers in the aquarium
- Be a little sad that the waterfowl have to miss the Fair this year (live bird ban)
- Slow down, it’s OK, meet a few new turtle species instead and appreciate their new enclosure
- Learn at least one new thing from a stage presentation (2015 Iowa State Fair Recipes)
- Talk trash as you stroll through the air-conditioned mobile education unit
- Witness the delicate art of fly tying (at a demo the first Saturday or in the contest entries on display)
- Taste fun “on a stick” at the Explore Iowa Parks Theme Day (first Sunday)
- Create a make-and-take from recycled materials at ReusaPalooza (last Saturday)
- Quench your thirst at the water bottle filling station or water fountain in the courtyard
- Find the oldest and newest signs at the DNR Main Entrance
- Share your paddling prowess at the Up A Creek Theme Day (first Saturday)
- Help your child hammer out a birdhouse on Extreme Sunday (Birdhouse information)
- Drink in some information about Iowa’s groundwater at Iowa Rocks! (first day)
- Cast for fun at Fishing Fridays and catch a bow fishing demo (second Friday)
- Take a break on a bench or a picnic table in the cool of the courtyard