Fish Tale

Fish Tale: A new aquarium in Bryson City highlights life in Appalachian Rivers
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(Left) Bluegill; (right) Red Spotted Newt

With fresh waterways, the country’s first and only fly-fishing trail in Jackson County, and Swain County’s Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, Western North Carolina holds a wealth of angling opportunities and resources. Since August, this abundance has grown even greater with the opening of the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium in Bryson City.

The first of its kind in the region, the aquarium is the brainchild of Alen Baker, who also founded the museum. The new educational resource gives visitors the opportunity to view some 50 species of the region’s native freshwater fish, including walleye, crappie, chub, redhorse, bluegill, and trout. Housed in a 1,000-square-foot facility containing 11 tanks—including one devoted solely to North America’s largest salamander, the hellbender—“the aquarium is a wonderful learning opportunity not only for tourists, but for locals as well,” says manager Rita Miller. It also houses a classroom with a terrarium of native frogs and lizards. “We especially want kids to learn about the natural world,” Miller says. “Learning about the fish teaches them about where and how the fish live, how their habitats are maintained, and how we can protect our natural resources.” 

Appalachian Rivers Aquarium

117 Island St., Bryson City
Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
By donation; (828) 488-3681
flyfishingmuseum.org/aquarium.html

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Photographs (fish and newt) by Kerry Peek; (museum) by Mary Anne Baker