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101 Things To Do: National Eagle Center in Wabasha

A staff member answers questions for the audience at one of the daily presentations at the National Eagle Center. Photo courtesy of the National Eagle Center1 / 5
The statue of Chief Wapasha II stands watch just outside the National Eagle Center on June 15, 2018. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
The National Eagle Center opened in its current location in 2005, giving visitors a great view of the river and eagle nesting grounds. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Visitors get a close-up view of live eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minn. Photo courtesy of the National Eagle Center4 / 5
The National Eagle Center as seen from the Mississippi River. The center offers a children's fishing program from the dock. Photo courtesy of the National Eagle Center5 / 5

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in our new series, 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.

One of the treats of living or traveling along the Mississippi River flyway is seeing eagles — soaring in flight, perching in a treetop, waiting on the edge of breaking ice — and enjoying their elegance.

"Bald eagles are native to North America," said Ed Hahn, marketing manager at the National Eagle Center. "They are found in every state except Hawaii."

They need a major source of water, so the Mississippi River and its watershed is an excellent habitat for them. Because of that, Minnesota has 2,000 pairs of nesting eagles. Wisconsin has more than 1,500.

March is the highpoint for eagle migration, so the Eagle Center, which opened at its current location in 2005, plans special events for every weekend in March through its SOAR With the Eagles program. The calendar on the website explains the programs and options.

The center also has special eagle excursions available. Two trips to look for bald eagles will take place on Saturdays April 13 and April 27. Golden eagle field trips will take place on Saturdays Feb. 2, and Feb. 16. Visitors are transported in busses and minimal walking is required. The cost is $30 for National Eagle Center members and $40 for non-members. Registration includes all day admission to the National Eagle Center. Registration for the eagle trips is on the website.

"Winter is peak eagle viewing season," Hahn said, "and these trips are an easy and accessible way to enjoy nature and the outdoors during the winter months."

The center has daily programs which allow visitors to see eagles up close and listen to experts explain the lives of eagles. Resident eagles go into the classrooms and are part of each program.

Visitors to the center can see two floors of interactive exhibits to learn much more about eagles and the Mississippi River ecosystem.

"The mission of the center is education," Hahn explained. "Eagles are the focal point, but there is more to it than that. We educate about other species like mussels and native fish."

People love to look at and talk about eagles, according to Hahn. "Everybody has a bald eagle story," he said. "One nested near their cabin, or they rescued a bird. They can't wait to share their stories. Eagles have a universal appeal."

If you go...

What: National Eagle Center

Where: 50 Pembroke Ave., Wabasha, Minn.

Phone: 651-565-4989

Website: https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

How much: $10; veterans: $9; youth ages 4—17 $7; 3 and under free; members free

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872
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