By: Deanna Rebro | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: March 2008
Teri Bowers, COO and Executive Director, shows one of the new habitats at “The Hayes Family Ozark Stream.”
On March 7-9, the Oklahoma Aquarium will unveil the largest new exhibit in nearly five years, “The Hayes Family Ozark Stream.” This 1700 square foot exhibit, adjacent to the Fishes of Oklahoma gallery, is home to 2 river otters, 2 beavers, 2 raccoons and an assortment of freshwater fish.
Dr. Mark Hayes served as a board member of the Oklahoma Aquarium Foundation. He was a landowner in northeastern Oklahoma, who fought relentlessly to preserve our state’s scenic rivers. Unfortunately, Dr. Hayes passed away in April of 2004.
To honor his memory and continue his work, The Hayes Family Ozark Stream began taking shape in January, 2007. Kenny Alexopoulos, Deputy Director and Project Manager, headed the unique construction project. What looks like rocky cliffs are actually pieces of styrofoam salvaged from boat docks in Missouri. The styrofoam was headed for a landfill, where it would have remained forever, had it not been specifically repurposed for the new exhibit.
Oklahoma Aquarium COO and Executive Director, Teri Bowers, explains how the big blocks of styrofoam were strengthened with rebar and chicken wire. “Rock formations” were hand carved and sprayed with gunite, and then hand painted for realistic coloring. “What’s really special is how close adults and children can get to the glass,” says Teri. Each habitat provides an opportunity to learn more about the animals and how they play a part in our streams, while being thoroughly entertained.
One of the resident raccoons peers from his den.
Two frolicing river otters, one from Florida and one from Ohio, will delight visitors with their antics. Two chubby little beavers also make the exhibit their home. The beavers were found orphaned during a recent drought. A wildlife rehabilitator bottle fed the babies before presenting them to the Aquarium. Two rambunctious raccoons were also bottle fed as orphans, and now reside in their own den.
Teri said they are excited to introduce an interactive game called “Match the Hatch.” Participants open a tackle box and match the right lure on a light-up box with the pictured fish. It’s a great learning experience for both children and adults.
The freshwater fish on display include green sunfish, bluegill, longear sunfish and smallmouth bass.
For the grand opening celebration, members of the Education Department will provide education carts so visitors can touch and feel animal pelts and other pertinent artifacts. They’ll also answer any questions about the exhibit.
When you’re finished with The Hayes Family Ozark Stream, there are over 200 exhibits to enjoy throughout the Aquarium. One of the most popular attractions is the Shark Adventure. Here you have the largest bull sharks in captivity, that you can see through a one-of-kind, walk-through tunnel.
Another popular area is the Karl and Beverly White National Fishing Tackle Museum. Over 20,000 pieces, valued at more than $4 million, make up the largest and most comprehensive antique fishing tackle collection in the world. Artifacts include the first gasoline outboard engine and the very first Skeeter Bass Boat.
The Oklahoma Aquarium welcomes 400,000 visitors through its doors each year. It is open every day of the year except Christmas. Hours are 10-6; open until 9 on Tuesdays. Admission is $13.95 for adults; seniors and military $11.95 (ID required); youngsters 3-12, $9.95; children under three are admitted free. Taxes apply on all tickets.
The Oklahoma Aquarium is located at 300 Aquarium Dr, on the riverfront in Jenks. Drive in on 96th St. or the Creek Turnpike (Elm Street exit) and then follow the signs. For more information, call 296-3474.
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.