Great Lakes Aquarium

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Great Lakes Aquarium
Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN
Date opened July 29, 2000
Location Duluth, Minnesota, USA
Coordinates 46°46′45.36″N 92°6′1″W / 46.7792667°N 92.10028°W / 46.7792667; -92.10028Coordinates: 46°46′45.36″N 92°6′1″W / 46.7792667°N 92.10028°W / 46.7792667; -92.10028
Floor space 62,000 sq ft (5,800 m2)
Number of species 100
Volume of largest tank 85,000 US gal (320,000 l)
Total volume of tanks 120,000 US gal (450,000 l)

The Great Lakes Aquarium opened in 2000 and is located on the Duluth waterfront. A freshwater aquarium, its mission is to inspire people to explore their connection to Lake Superior and waters of the world. Great Lakes Aquarium features animals and habitats found within the Great Lakes basin and other freshwater ecosystems such as the Amazon River. The Aquarium houses 205 different species of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. It is one of few aquariums in the United States that focuses on freshwater exhibits.

Many of the main exhibits at 62,000-square-foot (5,800 m2) Great Lakes Aquarium (GLA) are based upon actual habitats in the Lake Superior basin. "Slices" of the Saint Louis River, Baptism River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Kakagon Slough, Isle Royale and Otter Cove can all be viewed up close.

Permanent Fixtures[edit]

Isle Royale[edit]

The 85,000-US-gallon (320,000 l) Isle Royale is the main exhibit located in the very center of the building, and it extends to both the first and second floors allowing visitors to view it from many different angles. It contains trout and lake sturgeon.

Baptism River[edit]

Baptism River is a fast-moving exhibit featuring a waterfall. It contains rainbow, brown, and brook trout, as well as sculpin and longnose suckers.

Saint Louis River[edit]

The Saint Louis River exhibit is a slow-moving river habitat with perch, walleye, gar, sturgeon, channel catfish, and other native species.

Pictured Rocks / Kakagon Slough[edit]

Pictured Rocks and Kakagon Slough are inside of a netted area and feature sandstone cliffs, live songbirds, ducks, and wetland plants.

Otter Cove[edit]

Otter Cove is an exhibit that currently does not house any otters. Zhoosh the male otter died in July 2013 at the age of 13. Anang, the female, sustained a broken leg and is currently off exhibit. The aquarium has not received any new otters and has not announced the arrival or purchase of any new otters as of recent, and was designed after a cove in Pukaskwa Provincial Park. Directly to the left is an exhibit containing a crow named Freeway.

Amazing Amazon[edit]

Amazing Amazon is the newest exhibit, opened summer 2008. It features freshwater creatures from the largest river in the world. This includes Pacu, Poison Dart Frogs, Arowana, Piranha, Thorny Catfish. There is also a Macaw.

Other Permanent Exhibits[edit]

19 satellite tanks are at various locations and contain animals such as fish, frogs, salamanders and snakes. There is also a wide variety of interactive electronic exhibits located throughout the museum. Great Lakes Aquarium also features a local history center, a science center and cultural exhibits.

Rotating Exhibits[edit]

In May 2010, Great Lakes Aquarium opened its current[1] rotating exhibit "Masters of Disguise" in the Sandra and Roger Karon Exhibit Hall. This intriguing attraction explores camouflage, coloring, mimicry and other visual tricks and behaviors that help sea creatures and land animals hide in plain sight. Shape-shifting fish, plant-like insects and color-changing reptiles are among the many new creatures featured. Prior rotating exhibits include "The Abyss: the Great Unknown" which ended in 2010, "Africa's Lake Victoria" which ended in 2003 and "Hunters of the Sky" which ended in September 2001. The next exhibit was scheduled to open in July 2014. Titled "Shipwrecks Alive!" It will feature how sea life makes their home in shipwrecks. It will profile the wreck of the SS America which wrecked in 1918 near Isle Royal.


Another view of the aquarium

Holt Hinshaw had the original vision and Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. (HGA) made it a reality. Construction took 3.5 years and cost around $34 million. An office area at the rear of the first floor has been cleared out to host conferences, birthday parties and other pre-arranged events. There are great harbor views from this area and other parts of the museum. When visitors enter the museum, they are encouraged to ride the escalator to the upper level first through Sensory Immersion Experience and continue onto the lower level later.

Main Floor[edit]

The main floor contains the following features:

  • Shipwrecks Alive! (rotating exhibit)
  • Gift Shop
  • Otter Cove
  • American Crow
  • Great Lakes Water Table
  • Isle Royale
  • Wow of Water
  • International Lakes
  • Amazing Amazon
  • Boardroom
  • Harborview Suite Party Room
  • Learning Labs
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Lake Superior Deep Water Benthic Explorer

Upper Level[edit]

  • Origins
  • Human Migration
  • Touch Tanks
  • World of Water
  • Harbor View
  • Baptism River
  • Isle Royale
  • Saint Louis River
  • Uplands
  • Weather Station
  • Pictured Rocks
  • Kakagon Slough
  • Marketplace (interactive exhibits)
  • Caretaking
  • Cafeteria (Currently under construction)


The basement of this building is closed to the public. It contains offices and storage, as well as an animal care area and pumps for the aquarium, which can be viewed via camera near Isle Royale on the first floor.


Great Lakes Aquarium opened its doors on July 29, 2000. It was built (on land donated by Duluth philanthropists Julia and Caroline Marshall) with a combination of state and local funds as well more than $6 million in private donations. While well attended in those opening months, construction delays resulted in a loss of around 30% of anticipated revenues that year. In 2002, Mayor Gary Doty appointed a task force to improve the facility's long-term viability. Later that year the city took over managerial control of the Aquarium and briefly closed it. In May 2003, management of Great Lakes Aquarium was turned over to Ripley's Entertainment, Leisure Entertainment Corporation, best known for its "Believe it or Not" museums. The company eliminated 2/3 of aquarium staff and cut costs, bringing it back from the immediate threat of permanent closure. Under successive declining years of attendance, Ripley's ended its relationship with the Aquarium in 2007. At that time, the board of directors decided to return management of the facility back to local control and recruited Jack LaVoy to serve as executive director. Since 2008, a philosophy of continuous improvement has been adopted starting with a program called "The Three R's"; repair, replace or remove all defective exhibits from the exhibit floor. Plans for new exhibit galleries and expanded educational outreach are ongoing. GLA is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.



  • "A Walking Tour of Great Lakes Aquarium" volunteer orientation manual

External links[edit]