Canyon Falls, Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit, to open Saturday

Rare otters and lizards highlight Aquarium’s latest guest experience

– The all-new Canyon Falls exhibit at Newport Aquarium is set to open to the public 10 a.m. Saturday, March 14.

Canyon Falls, which will occupy the area that formerly housed the Turtle Canyon exhibit, will be the new home to Asian small-clawed otters and some of the world’s most unique reptiles.

“Our guests spoke to us about the desire to bring back otters to Newport Aquarium and we heard them loud and clear,” said Chris Pierson, Newport Aquarium operations director. “From Asian small-clawed otters, to very rare species of lizards, Canyon Falls will offer guests a number of opportunities to experience and learn about the conservation of some truly unique animals.”


Asian small-clawed otters are back at Newport Aquarium by popular demand as Canyon Falls will initially feature two otters – Neda (female), who came from Kansas City Zoo, and Pork Chop (male), who came from National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will offer guests multiple vantage points to see these playful and social animals up close and personal.

Newport Aquarium staff will host scheduled interactive otter talks at Canyon Falls, which will provide guests educational opportunities to learn more about otter biology and conservation. The talks will focus on survival adaptations and how humans directly impact the environment of otters – particularly Asian small-clawed otters, which are listed as a vulnerable species, one category away from endangered, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


In addition to otters, Canyon Falls will include two species of lizard never before seen at Newport Aquarium – yellow monitors, rare and active tree-dwelling lizards from Indonesia, and panther chameleons, one of the most colorful lizards in the world from Madagascar.

Canyon Falls will also feature two popular holdovers from Turtle Canyon: the iconic Thunder, a more than 100-year-old, 155-pound snapping turtle and Newport Aquarium’s oldest resident, will remain in the temple tank; and the Turtle Corral, where guests have the unique opportunity to touch several species of tortoises.

Yellow monitors will be on exhibit at Canyon Falls.

Yellow monitors will be on exhibit at Canyon Falls.

Newport Aquarium Annual Passholders will get to enjoy an exclusive sneak peak of Canyon Falls prior to the aquarium opening to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Canyon Falls Annual Passholder preview is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and will include: Breakfast provided by Chick-fil-A; interactive games; exclusive animal encounters presented by the WAVE Foundation; and photo opportunities with the Chick-fil-A Cow and the stars of Newport Aquarium’s daily Penguin Parade, J.P. and Rocky.

For more information on Newport Aquarium, visit or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).


Newport Aquarium, voted the No. 1 aquarium in the country by USA Today’s in 2012, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Find us on: | Twitter: @NewportAquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444

Alligator Snapping Turtle Thunder is a Newport Aquarium Mainstay

At more than 100 years old,  Thunder the alligator snapping turtle is the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium.

At more than 100 years old, Thunder the alligator snapping turtle is the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium.

If you came to Newport Aquarium when it opened to the public May 15, 1999, chances are you got to see our large alligator snapping turtle, graciously named Thunder.

If you’ve been to Newport Aquarium recently, chances are you’ve also spotted Thunder.

At more than 100 years old, not only is Thunder the oldest animal at Newport Aquarium, he’s also one of the original animals to go on display when we first opened.

Since the aquarium opened, Thunder has been in a tank near the Gator Alley exhibit. That is up until last week, when he was moved to the “Temple tank” at the new Turtle Canyon exhibit, which opens to the public March 22.

Alligator snapping turtles are one of the largest turtle species in North America. Across the U.S., populations of turtle species – including alligator snapping turtles – face a variety of environmental issues including water quality, habitat loss or degradation and hunting.

Saved from a butcher’s block, Thunder was rescued from a Louisiana market because of his large size. He moved to a turtle farm in Missouri before calling Newport Aquarium his home.

Due to both these natural and synthetic factors, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists alligator snapping turtles as an endangered species. These factors are also why it’s rare to see an alligator snapping turtle the size of Thunder in the wild.


Thunder, like other alligator snapping turtles, is an ambush predator and prefers to hide and wait for his food to swim by. Then – SNAP – he catches it by surprise.

Newport Aquarium biologists describe Thunder as a picky eater, especially when it comes to mackerel. He gets fed roughly twice per week, but can go weeks without eating due to the low amount of calories needed.

Often you can find smaller fish swimming in the tank with Thunder as he awaits for a larger, more appetizing meal. If fish enter his tank small and grow to be medium-to-large sized, Thunder probably will not try to eat them. However, if you were to throw in a large bass into his tank, after an about hour chances are Thunder has taken a bite out of it.

One of the unique personality traits of Thunder is his penchant to practice yoga in the mornings; keepers often spot him stretching out his limbs first thing in the a.m.

Visit Newport Aquarium’s official blog – – to read #TurtleTuesday updates.