Each winter the Mississippi River around Wabasha is home to one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the Lower 48. They come south to Wabasha because the rapid current keeps the river open year-round, allowing them to fish.
The early birds show up around the beginning of November, though the best viewing, when over 200 can be seen on most days, doesn’t begin until December. Most stick around through March.
Just before they leave, a sharp peak occurs (the record daily count is over 700) as other eagles that went further south stop here on their trip back home. While sightings are all but guaranteed in the winter, they aren’t exactly rare the rest of the year, since 40 pair nest in the area.
You can learn about the national bird at the National Eagle Center (50 Pembroke Ave., 651/565-4989 or 877/332-4537, www.nationaleaglecenter.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, open 1 hour later weekends Mar.–Nov., $6), which has educational displays, knowledgeable staff, and four resident eagles that cannot be released back into the wild because of injury. Spotting scopes are set up on the deck overlooking the river.
You can also get some up-close looks from several pullouts along the highway just to the north of Wabasha between Reads Landing and Camp Lacupolis. The best viewing times are morning and early evening when they dive into the river for fish; during the middle of the day they can be seen perched in trees.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition