Wabasha,MN is a small community located along the Mississippi River about an hours drive south of the Twin Cities. In 1989 Mary Rivers, a member of a Wabasha Chamber of Commerce Committee looking to revitalize the economy of the small town and preserve it's non-industrial riverfront, founded a group called Eagle Watch, Inc.
Rivers had been fascinated with eagles and believed that the rebounding winter population of eagles in the area around Wabasha could be a great tourist attraction for the city.
So Eagle Watch, Inc sent a group of volunteers up to The Raptor Center for training so that they could staff a unused boat landing that the city donated to be used as an eagle observation deck. The observation deck opened in 1990 and brought over 1000 visitors to the town.
Eagle Watch, Inc continued to bring more tourists to Wabasha each year and with their continuing success they were able to expand their operations. In 1996 a visitor's center was opened in an empty store front near the observation deck. In 1999 Congress designated the facility the National Eagle Center and in 2007 the National Eagle Center opened its brand new facility, which you see pictured here.
The new building is located directly on the riverfront. It's many windows, all of which have clings on to break up any reflective pattern which may cause a bird to fly into it, over look the river where you can often see wild eagles flying. Wabasha is located just south of where the Chippewa River, coming out of Wisconsin, empties into the Mississippi. Since the Chippewa is a swift moving river and the Mississippi is slow at this point, since it is just coming out of Lake Peppin, the water is churned and does not typically freeze during the winter. This open water brings many eagles into the area during the winter time. Wabasha is also the northern border of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Inside the facility there are display areas, classrooms, a gift shop and the housing area for the centers resident eagles. There is also a 25' high as well as a river level observation deck with scopes and binos for visitors to use.
The center is currently home for 3 resident bald eagles. At 26 years Harriet, pictured above, is the oldest of the three. Harriet is the big star of the center. She has appeared before politicians and celebrities, has been on TV with Stephan Colbert and Jeff Corwin, and appears on the Minnesota Veteran's License Plate.
Columbia is the newest of the bald eagles, although it looks from their website that they are in the process of getting a new bald eagle. She came to the center in 2003, shortly after the Columbia Shuttle tragedy, and was named in memory of the shuttles crew.
Angel is my favorite of the three bald eagles. She always has attitude and is not afraid to show her personality. When I took this pic Angel had spotted a wild eagle flying across the river and had to let him know who was the boss.
The newest edition to the National Eagle Center family is a golden eagle named Don. Don's addition has been significant because the center has been very involved in studying the population of migrating golden eagles that spends the winter in the area. Over the past few years the center has organized an annual survey to count the golden eagles wintering in the lower Mississippi Valley in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin and northern Iowa. Each year as more volunteers participate in the survey more golden eagles are spotted.