Located at the west end of the State Fair Grand Concourse, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources 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 and other staffers are on hand to field visitors’ questions and maybe ask a few too.
Visitors of all ages can test their knowledge of state parks’ trivia or challenge other visitors to a game of environmental Jeopardy. Fair-goers can also test their skills at the new air rifle range, or maybe spot a cougar, bobcat or wolf mount, or full-size replica of an eagle’s nest. Licenses and Iowa Outdoors magazine subscriptions are also on sale.
On the west side of the pavilion are gates designed and created by sculptor David Williamson and past fair visitors, using metal trash collected from Iowa’s annual river clean-up, Project AWARE. The gates lead to the DNR’s courtyard, a relaxing oasis complete with a pond of waterfowl and turtles, a prairie, a stream, the world’s largest birdhouse, a water bottle filling station, picnic tables, benches and plenty of shade.
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 talk. And each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Fair will be dedicated to special theme days in the courtyard. For a list of courtyard theme days and daily stage presentations visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/InsideDNR/SocialMediaPressRoom/IowaDNRattheStateFair.aspx.
The DNR’s pavilion and aquarium are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, throughout the fair.