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The river journey through the aquarium aptly begins at the beginning: the Mountains. More specifically, the Appalachian Cove Forest of the Appalachian Mountains, the source of the Tennessee River.
Appalachian Cove Forest and Discovery Hall
The enveloping exhibit transports guests to the rich and diverse environment of the mountain habitat, with moist mountain air, chirping birds, tumbling waterfalls, and streams with fish, amphibians and reptiles.
The journey continues to Discovery Hall, where the habitats of the swampy environment of the Southeast region is recreated. This exhibit includes brightly colored sunfish, a swamp nursey where baby alligators can often be found, and the nation’s largest salamander, which breathes through its skin.
River Otter Falls
The beginning of the River Journey also includes the River Otter Falls exhibit. This exhibit provides guests with the opportunity to observe the otters swim, dive and play. This exhibit also features the Otter Enrichment program, available at various times throughout the day, which allows visitors to observe trainers interacting with the otters. Interactions could include new food or toys that provide variety for the otters. Guests can also attend Otter Keeper talks to learn more about these engaging animals.
The next stop on the River Journey is the Mississippi Delta. This exhibit includes such animals as alligators, birds, turtles, ducks, and reptiles. Many special programs and experiences are available at the Mississippi Delta exhibit. Guests can observe keepers interacting with various birds in the Delta Bird Program, have an up-close experience with a turtle in Swamped with Turtles, or learn about working with alligators in the Alligator program. These programs are available throughout the day.
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River Giants, Rivers of the World, and The Tennessee River Gallery
The River Journey also includes River Giants, a collection of the largest freshwater fish from around the world. This collection was produced in collaboration with Natural Geographic and includes massive creatures such as huge freshwater stingrays and wallago catfish. This leads into the Rivers of the World exhibit, showcasing animals from Eurasian and Tropical African waters, as well as the Amazon, Volga, Fly, and Congo Rivers. Animals in these exhibits include the usual fish, frogs, lizards and turtles, as well as the unusual piranhas and anacondas. The exhibit concludes with the Tennessee River Gallery, an homage to the history and architecture of the Tennessee River, including examination of not only of the wildlife, but also the manmade dams that regulate the river. This exhibit also features “Turtles: Nature’s Living Sculptures”.
Seahorses: Beyond Imagination
For the final stop on the River Journey, visitors explore Seahorses: Beyond Imagination. The special gallery, in the lower lobby of first building, provides an up-close look at these sea creatures, including not only seahorses, but pipefish, sea stars and legendary sea dragons, as well. The habitats on display include recreations of the reef edge in the Philippines and a Tasmanian kelp bed.
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