The opening of the Oceanarium in 1991 was transformational—adding an entirely new collection of animals, doubling Shedd's attendance and setting a standard for visitor experiences that both educate and entertain. The time came for pool maintenance and upgrades, and with that, the opportunity to bring about another transformation—renewing the Oceanarium with new exhibits and experiences in our Pacific Northwest exhibit, with increased opportunities for interactions with animals, the furthering of our conservation and education missions, improved wayfinding and a stronger identity for the exhibit itself within the Oceanarium wing of the building.
The new Pacific Northwest exhibit will immerse visitors in the region's rich coastal habitats—the rivers that link the land with the sea, the temperate rain forest that flourishes in a harsh climate and the surprisingly diverse habitats in the cold waters along the ocean coast. Shedd's marine mammal collection—belugas, dolphins, sea otters and sea lions—will continue to be the highlights of the exhibit, but the richness of the coastal area will be more apparent as we integrate species of the region's tide pools and estuaries.
Shedd's southernmost pool, Secluded Bay, is one of the most popular exhibits. This recreated Pacific Northwest coastline is a site of rugged, but tranquil beauty where visitors can't help but relax, breathe deep and enjoy the mesmerizing sight of graceful belugas diving and then gliding again to the surface. If they're lucky, they might feel the spray as the whales spout.
Water tumbling over moss-covered rocks will lead to the river mouth, a brackish habitat that bridges the river and the sea, providing a home for flounders, surfperch, sculpins and a wide variety of other salt-tolerant fishes and invertebrates, away from the tumble of the ocean waves. Visitors will be able to take in an underwater view of the diverse collection in this open habitat.
Water cascades over rocks, collecting in waterfall pools, and flows through the forest along a rocky course along the ITW Foundation Beluga Trail (the south stairway) to the river mouth below. Visitors starting their journey at the south end of the Pacific Northwest exhibit will enter here, following the river to the sea.
Expansion of the sea lion habitat provides a perfect home for these charismatic animals, enough room for a larger collection and a better visitor experience. The brighter, open feel of the new space shows off these engaging animals whether they are using their strong flippers to swim, pose or haul up on shore for a nice rest on the rocks.
Shedd's sea otters radiate the vitality of our ocean coast marine mammals. Guests can watch these energetic creatures swim, dive, play and respond to their trainers.