The New Wonders of Wildlife Experience in Missouri

It is summer vacation time and my family recently left Pennsylvania to hit the partially open road, thanks to a few construction areas. Our destination of family, friends, and fishing in Oklahoma involved an all too familiar 20 hour drive, stuck watching for various landmarks along the way such as a giant candle, a tank, and a large wooden hillbilly with moving arms. But finally, after several years of being closed for remodeling, we were excited to visit Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Missouri.  It did not disappoint.

Johnny Morris is the founder of Bass Pro Shops and a remarkable conservationist. From a press release, Johnny Morris created this 350,000 square foot attraction as a “not-for-profit…gift to the nation intended to inspire people of all ages to engage with the natural world.” 

The key word for this amazing facility is “immersion.” It is a 1.5 mile trail that takes you above, through, and below exhibits for unique perspectives. Close your eyes and you’ll even smell when you’ve entered a forest or stepped on a saltwater pier. Kids can pop up IN a few of the live animal exhibits and the truly adventuresome can dive with sharks.

After 3 hours of cool, dark exploration, we had to jump back in the baking car to complete our journey. My family just sort of sat there in silence. It was a lot to take in. Which exhibit was the best? Was it the shipwreck reef and petting the rays? The 3-story baitfish “tornado?” Or did the playful otter steal the show?

If you are in the area of Springfield, MO, you’ll want to check this out and devote several hours to this conservation and educational experience. The web site warns that the best times to visit are during fall and winter and to avoid crowds of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We had to visit during summer but managed a Monday visit and it was, let’s say, still well attended.  Not unbearable, but the good reviews definitely are out. Which for conservation efforts, is a really good thing. Learn more about conservation efforts, find out what you can do to support and protect our aquatic natural resources.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.