Indoor Exhibits

Yes, she’s real. This prehistoric-looking turtle weighs nearly 100 lbs and eats hundreds of minnows per week, which she catches by holding perfectly still and wiggling her tongue like a tasty worm. Though her cousin, the common snapping turtle, can be found state-wide, the alligator snapper has become extremely rare in Kentucky and exists only in the western portion of the state. Snapping turtles spend most of their time hiding in the depths of warm-water rivers and lakes, moving only to catch prey or breed. In June the females will leave the water in search of a good spot to lay her eggs, and then return, leaving them to hatch on their own.

This exhibit is sponsored by the Woods and Wetlands Wildlife Center in Cadiz, Ky.

Alligator Snapping Turtle    
Aquatic Turtles

All of Kentucky’s turtles except the terrestrial box turtle make their home in water. During the warm months they can be spotted sunning on logs, or surfacing for air before submerging again. In the fall they bury themselves in mud and hibernate until the weather warms again. The Salato Center houses a number of aquatic turtles in two aquariums, just at the right height for our little visitors who love them best!

Eastern Forest Diorama  

This diorama is so real, you can feel the damp and hear the birdsong. A mountain stream runs through the center of an eastern Kentucky forest. A thick canopy of trees and shrubs provides cover and shelter for numerous native species, including butterflies, frogs, snakes, birds raccoons, white-tailed deer, and black bear. Visitors that step close will hear the sound of a rattlesnake giving its warning! Look hard. How many plants and animals can you identify?

Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the prairie exhibit.

Kentucky is home to a great many frogs and toads. This exhibit highlights six of our state's native species: American bullfrogs, leopard frogs, northern leopard frogs, gray and green treefrogs, and American toads in naturalistic habitats. You'll learn some fascinating facts you probably never knew about native frogs and their habitats. For example: Did you know that frogs have teeth...? It's true! Kids can hop up on a log to get a closer look.

This exhibit is supported by funding from East KY Power Coop - Touchstone Energy Coop (

Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the frog exhibit.

Frogs of Kentucky


Keeping Kentucky’s fish populations healthy and thriving involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work! In this exciting interactive exhibit, kids can experience what it’s like to be a fisheries biologist. Enter the exhibit through the mouth of a huge spotted bass into a fish hatchery where eggs are hatched and fish grown to stocking size. Try studying fish in the wild from a “shocking boat,” which uses electricity to stun several stuffed catfish, which can then be weighed measured and returned to the lake. Who pays for this work? Anglers do! Have fun while learning how money flows from fishing poles and licenses to conservation and restoration of our native fish in an interactive “Plinko” game. Finally, have your photo taken for the cover of Kentucky Afield magazine holding your trophy striped bass! Guaranteed fun for kids young and old!

This exhibit was funded through grants to the Sport Fish Restoration Act ( and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation (

Get on Board Fisheries Exhibit  

How big do you think a catfish can get? Believe it or not, the current state record is a Blue Catfish weighing 104 pounds! And that doesn't even count the ones that might have "got away". This exhibit features models of real record fish caught in Kentucky waters - often by amateur anglers. Did you know that many record-sized fish can be caught in farm ponds? It's true. And what's that prehistoric-looking fish with the funny nose? No, they aren't extinct. The paddlefish, or spoonbill, can be found in many of Kentucky's warm water rivers and lakes. Do I have your attention now? Dust off that pole and let's go fishing!

Kentucky Record Fish  

Have you ever wondered what a bee hive looks like inside, but were afraid to get too close? In our bee tree, you can safely watch honeybees busily at work collecting pollen, feeding their larvae, tending the queen, and communicating to one another using the famous "waggle dance". Two clear plastic tubes allow the bees to come and go from the hive at will, and you can watch them from safety through one of several wildlife viewing windows.

This exhibit is sponsored and maintained by Kentucky State University (

Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the bee exhibit.

Rainbow Trout

One of the most challenging fish to catch is the rainbow trout, but anglers who want to try their hand at it are quickly hooked and will spend their weekends and holidays slowly wading cold-water streams, fly rods in hand, trying to trick them into taking a fly. Though trout are not native to Kentucky (our streams are mostly too warm for them to reproduce), they are such a popular game fish, that we stock designated trout streams across the state for anglers. This sometimes means hiking into the Red River Gorge or other remote areas carrying a backpack full of fingerlings in water for release!

This exhibit is sponsored by the Louisville Chapter of Trout Unlimited (

Habitat destruction, unregulated hunting, and chemical pollutants have caused the decline or extinction of numerous species of wildlife accross the globe. In the early 1900's, concerned naturalists and outdoorsmen started the modern conservation movement by passing legislation like the Migratory Bird Treaty, and suggesting restrictions on the unregulated hunting of species that had become rare. Today, many species that had once been hunted out of the state, or had declined to dangerously low levels, are back! This exhibit highlights several of the species that have been successfully restored to our state by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and related state, federal, and civic organizations. Through interpretive text, dramatic mounts, and interactive computer programs, visitors will learn the history of both the decline and the comeback of elk, white-tailed deer, river otters, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, peregrine falcons, walleye, and muskellunge.

Restored Species of Kentucky  
Venomous Snake of Kentucky  

Kentucky is home to 32 species of snakes - and only 4 are venomous. Do you know which ones? Come to Salato and find out! The Center currently exhibits 3 species of venomous snakes, including the copperhead, timber rattlesnake, and western cottonmouth. Many myths persist about these animals, but the truth is that none of them lay eggs, chase people, or milk cows! In reality, they help control human pests like rates and mice, and are a vital part of our ecosystem. What's the 4th venomous snake? The pigmy rattlesnake, which is very rare, is found only Western Kentucky and is not currently exhibited at Salato.

Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the venomous snakes exhibit.

Though the venomous snakes get more attention, you are far more likely to see one of our state’s 28 non-venomous varieties! In the Bluegrass, garter snakes and black rat snakes are commonly spotted, while the tiny worm snake and rough green snake blend into their environments so well you may never see one. The Salato Center rotates the non-venomous snakes on exhibit, and houses a number of them off exhibit for use in educational programs or by docents.

Kentucky is home to more miles of running water than any other continental state. This means there are plenty of fishable bodies of water including streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the commonwealth. As you might guess, numerous species of fish reside within these waters and our warm water aquarium offers a look at some of the more popular species of game fish in Kentucky. These include the largemouth bass, black and white crappie, sauger, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. As any angler will agree, these fish are fun to catch and delicious to eat!

Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the warm water aquarium exhibit.

Warm Water Aquarium