For more than 100 years the DNR has been present at the Iowa State Fair. The DNR’s historic aquarium, pavilion and courtyard, located at the west end of the Grand Concourse, draw thousands of State Fair visitors each year.

The aquarium, built in 1921, is filled with Iowa fish species and the focal point of the open-air pavilion built around it. Inside, there are interactive displays and hands-on activities, touch live reptiles and amphibians and shoot a bow at the new archery range.

This year, visitors can test their knowledge of state parks and maybe receive one of the $100 Sportsman’s Warehouse gift certificates offered each day.

Conservation officers and other DNR staff are on hand to answer questions related to natural resources and the outdoors and then be sure to stop and get your subscription to the Iowa Outdoors magazine.

Outside the west gates of the building is a pond full of waterfowl and turtles — a magnet to fairgoers of all ages. The courtyard also features a full-sized replica of a bald eagles nest and new this year — the world’s largest birdhouse.  The birdhouse and eagle’s nest make great photo opportunities, and the courtyard, with its benches, picnic tables and water fountain, is a great place to sit and relax during the fair.

Learn how to make simple, everyday behavior changes inside your home to help protect and improve the environment outside at the mobile education exhibit along the north courtyard fence.

Sculptor David Williamson uses metal trash collected from the DNR annual river clean up event, Project AWARE, to create sculptures and most recently to create gates for the pavilion. He provides plenty of opportunity get involved during his weekend courtyard demonstrations. This will be Williamson’s last year turning “trash into treasure” as he completes the final gate. Williamson will also be featured in the Cultural Building during the week.

Be sure to check out the display of entries in the fly tying competition, sponsored by the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association. The entries will be judged on the DNR courtyard stage at 4 p.m., August 13.

Presentations are given daily on the courtyard stage including live animal talks and cooking demonstrations. Chef Patrick from Honey Creek Resort State Park will join the stage this year, cooking up some samples off the resort’s menu.

See a full stage schedule and more information about what to find at the DNR building by visiting The DNR “tweets” stage schedule reminders to its followers on Twitter and will be posting highlights of the Fair on Facebook. Like us at

Logo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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