As part of the Dubuque County Historical Society and National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium’s Preserve the Wonder Capital Campaign, the River Museum’s leadership announced plans for Phase 1 of a two-phase renovation to the Mississippi River Discovery Center, set to begin in April 2024.

The first phase features an expansion of the Flooded Forest exhibit, home to the North American River Otters, which will nearly triple the size of their habitat to include an outdoor space and updates to their current habitat. The outdoor aquarium that formerly housed River Otters will be reimagined into the Driftless Area, highlighting new species of birds, fish, and wildlife to tell a deeper story of the Mississippi River’s ecological history, with a focus on the spectacular geography of the Driftless Area that is so unique to the Tri-State Area. Inside the building, a new area focused on endangered species of the Mississippi River Watershed will educate and engage guests with the work the River Museum’s staff has done in conservation, including species such as freshwater mussels and the Wyoming Toad, while bringing in new conservation stories from the watershed, including Mudpuppies and Massasauga rattlesnakes.

Andy Allison, VP of Living Collections & Education, can’t wait to kick things off. “This project will help us tell the story of the Mississippi River in a whole new way, tying the entire gallery together with an emphasis on habitats and culture. I am especially excited to be able to show people some of the ways the River Museum continues to directly help save imperiled species in our region from extinction.”

The first phase is expected to be completed in September of 2024. The Preserve the Wonder Capital Campaign has raised more than $9.3 million for projects throughout campus, including River of Innovation, Rivers to the Sea, and the Mississippi River Center renovations. Year-end contributions from the community will support the project as will contributions to the River Museum’s GivingTuesday campaign on Nov. 28. GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.

“The work being done to the Mississippi River Discovery Center is our opportunity to share this amazing corner of the planet with our community and visitors from around the world. It’s a chance to celebrate our rich history and shine a light on the many ways people have interacted with the river and its inhabitants over time,” said Wendy Scardino, VP of Development & Marketing. “Each gift received for this project is an investment in both the community as well as in our ability to educate and inspire future generations.”

More information about the Mississippi River Discovery Center renovation project and the Preserve the Wonder Capital Campaign as well as a link to donate to the effort can be found at