Featured Exhibits

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (NMRMA) is the key attraction in the Port of Dubuque. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum & Aquarium river-front campus is the only interpretive center for the entire Mississippi. Visitors to the NMRMA can take an entertaining and informative journey on the Mighty Mississippi; enjoy dynamic aquariums, historical exhibits and a stroll through the wetlands and boatyard. Each visit is a truly interactive experience where visitors can get "up close and personal" with live critters, become barge pilots, and tour the steamboat William M. Black.

The William Woodward Discovery Center is the national headquarters for the Mississippi River and is the only facility of its kind in the world. The center presents large fresh water aquariums, live animals, touch pools, stream tables, living history demonstrations, a changing exhibit gallery. Animals include alligators, otters, beavers, turtles, fish, snakes, and much more.

The Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum is the focal point for river history, riverboats, and the home of the River of Dreams Theater. Constructed in 1902, the building was the original home of the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works which manufactured some of the largest boats and paddle wheelers in the nation. Today, it is home to the Mark Twain's River: The Golden age of Steam Boating exhibit, a working boat shop and living history Blacksmithing.

The Pfohl Family Boatyard is the museum's outdoor "hands-on" area featuring large steamboat artifacts, boat building demonstrations and a themed children's play area.

The William M. Black is a one-of-a-kind exhibit and listed on the National Historic Register. The Black is a working dredge boat that once roamed the waters of the Missouri River digging up tons of mud and muck, making the channels safe for navigation. Today, it's an integral part of the museum and an adventurous, authentic place for an overnight stay. Guests sleep in the crew's quarters, dine in the gallery and see what life was really like working a dredge boat.

The Woodward Nature Wetland Trail is the place to explore, experiment, and examine. Interpretive naturalists guide visitors through a living wetland with the many animals and flora that are native to this fascinating wetland habitat. Pay a visit to a frontier log cabin and a Native American Wikiup dwelling

The River Plaza gives our visitors an opportunity to experience a continuous experience while moving from one building to the next. A large pavilion provides shade, and a great location for outdoor events. Live animal displays including a Red Tail Hawk and two American Bald Eagles. The living stream includes live fish, two fish feeding stations, and a raft ride. A giant walk-through catfish serves as the anchor of a children's play area including park benches for the adults.

The Diamond Jo National River Center is our newest attraction celebrating all of America's great waterways. An indoor water fall greeting visitors to celebrate America's great rivers.

The immersive RiverWays gallery invites you to enter a canal, explore a river cave; and discover the history, culture, artifacts, and people of the diverse and watery interior of the United States.

The Large Format 3D/4D Immersion Theater presents 3D high definition sights, and 4D special effects including dramatic sound, wind, mist, seat movement and smells of the on-screen action.

Rivers to the Sea traces the story of water and rivers as they flow from streams to rivers to the ocean. Enjoy four salt-water aquariums including our 40,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit holding sharks, rays, and the beautiful schooling fish found at the mouth of the Mississippi.

RiverWorks invites children of all ages to explore through hands-on, water-based activities, they learn about rivers and what rivers mean to all of us. This children's "museum within a museum" keeps its river focus, with a crawl through beaver lodge, water table and a pedal-powered water "cycle."

The William Bowell Sr. River Library is a showcase of books, paintings, documents, photographs and manuscripts of America's river history.

The National Rivers Hall of Fame captures the drama of river people from all across America. Visitors can explore our nation's rivers in a keelboat audio exhibit, enjoy steamboat Invention Theater and steer barges in a modern-day towboat pilothouse simulator.

Special Events

The New Civil War Exhibits

The new exhibit The Battle for the Mississippi River: Key to Victory in the Civil War at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, spotlights the integral role the Mississippi River played in this important time in America’s history. The second part of the exhibit, A City Divided: Dubuque during the Civil War will open at the Old Jail Museum, Saturday, May 24.

Both exhibits are collaborative efforts of: the Dubuque County Historical Society, Loras College staff and students, and are supported by not only by the A.Y. McDonald Charitable Foundation, but by the Institute of Museum & Library Services. Additionally, the Museum & Aquarium has received a grant award of $10,000 from Humanities Iowa, a state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in support of this exhibit.

The Mississippi River: Key to Victory in the Civil War exhibit includes a museum-quality, life-size figure of President Lincoln with audio messages of his comments and writings, a recreated ironclad warship, reproduction cannon, and dioramas and images of the siege of Vicksburg. Several Civil War artifacts, including Dubuquer Andrew Young McDonald’s Civil War uniform coat, are on display.

The companion exhibit opening May 24 at the Old Jail Museum will present A City Divided: Dubuque during the Civil War which will highlight the division in Dubuque between those who supported Lincoln and the Union, and the Copperheads who opposed Lincoln. Copperheads in Dubuque supported the Confederate’s right to secede, opposed the Union draft, and other war measures. Dubuque had a larger number of soldiers fighting for the Confederates than any other county in Iowa.

The exhibit at the Old Jail Museum will include original images from Dubuque native and famed Civil War artist Alexander Simplot and the Dubuque-based Governor’s Greys blood-stained battle flag carried at the battle of Wilson’s Creek. A.Y. McDonald was injured at Wilson’s Creek and lay for four days awaiting medical assistance.

Rock the Dock

Friday, May 30, 6-10 p.m.

Come "Rock the Dock" with the Museum & Aquarium at our new outdoor Mississippi Plaza!

This FREE event will feature live music from Massey Road

Plus, the River's Edge Cafe will have a specialty menu available for guests. Beer, mixed drinks and wine also available. Doors open at 6pm, music starts at 7 pm.

Other Rock the Dock events:
Sunday, June 22nd 2-5pm
Friday, July 25th 6-10pm
Thursday, August 7th TASTE OF DUBUQUE
Saturday, August 16th 5-10 Dubuque Gran Fondo

We honor military families Memorial Day Weekend

Saturday, May 24

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is proud to announce their participation in the Blue Star Museum program. This program is a collaboration of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserves and their families from Memorial Day, May 26, through Labor Day, September 1, 2014. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium will extend this offer to military families two days earlier starting Saturday, May 24th.

We will also be offering free admission to Veterans to the Old Jail Museum on Saturday, May 24th to celebrate the opening of our second Civil War Exhibit:A City Divided: Dubuque during the Civil War .

*The City of Dubuque offers a free summer trolley service that will go from the Museum & Aquarium to both our historic sites. Take advantage of our ample parking and let the trolley take you where you want to go!

NEW! DCHS Collections now on-line!

View a portion of the collections of the Dubuque County Historical Society on-line. Follow this link to start exploring.

On-line Collections


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