Portland Aquarium, a December 2012 addition to Milwaukie, introduces visitors to thousands of waterborne species. Guests can slide their hands along the smooth flesh of a stingray or the knobby arms of a starfish or engage in staring contests with a leopard shark. Other planned exhibits include a jellyfish exhibit, a cold-water tank filled with fish native to Oregon's coast, and a rainforest-themed jungle gym for children. The tropical touch-tank woos visitors with its displays of vibrant-color aquatic life while amphibious wonders, including poison dart frogs, thrill visitors. Those seeking bigger thrills may hoist various pythons species–including a15-foot reticulated or 9-foot albino burmese snake–upon their shoulders or get their picture taken with a lorikeet. Landing-loving iguanas and panther chameleons also lurch around in the mix.
Tanis, Egypt. 1937. Indiana Jones descends into the fabled Well of the Souls, and lands in a slithering knot of black asps. The swashbuckler is struck dumb with terror, managing only to mutter the now iconic phrase: “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” Indiana Jones is not alone in his phobia. Tim Criswell hopes to change that.
Though the House of Reptiles founder doesn’t deny snakes’ potential to inflict harm, he hopes to foster in the public a more nuanced understanding of reptiles. He has amassed dozens of snakes over the years, including exotic specimens such as the indochinese spitting cobra, reticulated gila monster, and black mamba. He houses these serpents in his reptile museum, which was spotlighted in the Times not only for its exotic-species collection, but also for its mission to educate the public about the oft-feared-but-seldom-understood reptiles.
In addition to the museum, House of Reptiles features a retail store staffed by expert snake handlers, who draw upon years of experience to advise fledgling snake owners on proper care. Dozens of snakes are also available for purchase, giving animal lovers new friends who don't insist on cuddling every night.
Snuggled up next to the gorgeous Yaquina Bay, Oregon Coast Aquarium showcases the intricate sea life found on the Pacific Coast. Visitors can peer into the personal lives of outgoing ocean dwellers in the Passages of the Deep, which guides guests through the underwater ecosystems of the state's coast. Disciples of the sea can chat about the Wall Street Journal ’s recent article about the ink market with the giant Pacific octopus or watch public feedings of the largest sea otter community in the state—featuring the antics of the cheeky charmer northern otter Mojo. Merry mariners can swap shanties with the sleek and vocal sea lions or harbor seals, and touchy tourists can acquaint themselves with tide-pool residents in the Rocky Shores touch pool.