Oceans in Our Backyard

This is one of those destinations we have all passed when driving I-15 to Salt Lake City. It is an eye-catching building on the west side of the freeway. It is even more eye catching with the recently completed 165-foot structure called EECO (Ecosystem Exploration Craft and Observatory).

But how many of us have stopped to see what the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium has to offer young and old alike as we drive by at 70 miles per hour. Well, let’s stop and learn the treasure we have after a short drive from south Utah County.

To get to the aquarium you travel north on I-15 to Exit 291, which is 12300 South and proceed westbound to the northbound Lone Peak Parkway, which is your next stoplight. You can see “The Claw” and the aquarium building north of it.  As you approach the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium you realize it is a world class and huge facility, occupying 136,000 square feet. The volume of the largest water tank is 300,000 gallons and the total water tank volume of the aquarium is 600,000 gallons. It is home to 4,500 animals representing over 650 species. The aquarium has six exhibit areas. The entire facility is wheelchair accessible.

The Ocean Explorer Exhibit features salt-water species, including seven species of sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, eels, sea jellies, and more. A fascinating feature of this tank is a 40-foot tunnel made of 3.5-inch acrylic that enables visitors to walk through this huge aquarium tank to view the sea creatures just inches away. There are also several large viewing walls looking into the massive aquarium tank.

Several rows of seats allow you to be mesmerized by the mostly graceful and beautiful swimming of these sea creatures. The sea turtles are amazing because they are not graceful swimmers. This exhibit has hundreds of smaller sepsis specific windows to their world.

The Journey to South America Exhibit takes you through a tropical rain forest, where you will encounter the vast diversity of species that inhabit the rain forest ecosystem. It is warm, humid, green, and lush with a forest higher than the two floors of the exhibit. A fun feature for the kids is a swinging bridge across jungle canyon. You will see a 14 foot anaconda snake, tree boa constrictors, tree frogs, piranha fish, electric eels, and of course Amazon giants. Most importantly, you will learn how we benefit from the rain forest and why we need to protect this unique habitat.

The Discover Utah Exhibit features three North American River Otters which are currently being reintroduced to locations in Utah. The otters were delightfully active and entertaining during our visit.

Utah’s threatened and endangered species such as the June Sucker and least chub are also part of the exhibit, which was certainly educational. The emphasis of this exhibit is the importance of preserving and protecting Utah’s waterways.

The Antarctic Adventure takes visitors to a Falkland Island research station. The fun part of this exhibit is seeing the penguins. They are fun creatures to watch as they are cautious walkers on land and natural born swimmers. This is another exhibit that you can spend a lot of time watching. It is also interesting that 90 percent of penguins mate for life. After a period of activity, it must have been nap time because most of them laid down for rest. 

The Expedition Asia Exhibit features many different species of Asian birds, fish, and reptiles.

A unique feature of this exhibit are the two clouded leopards named Koshi and Rhu. At the time of our visit the leopards were visible taking a nap. Ask when you check-in at the entrance for the feeding and training schedule for the leopards and other animals.

Obviously, this is an entertaining and educational opportunities for the kids. Throughout this huge building there are hundreds of interactive things for kids to do, including some kid size passageways. There is also a two story, kids 12 and under, play area called Tuki’s Island that is available for an additional $3 fee. To get your money’s worth out of the entrance fee you should plan on spending most of the day at this treasure of an aquarium facility. The Reef Café food is well prepared and a reasonable price for a mid-day meal.

General admission tickets are $19.95 for age 18-64. Military, Students, and Seniors are $16.95. Children age 3-12 are $14.95.

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is a huge world class facility and the only place in Utah and the surrounding intermountain area to explore the Ocean, South America, and Asian rain forest.

Plus, there is an exhibit area to learn about the native species of Utah. The Loveland Living Planet is an incredible place and it is amazing that it is in our back yard so close to the towns and cities of south Utah County.(Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)

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