Perched on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha is one of the world’s finest interpretive centers focused on the ecology, biology, and natural history of eagles. (Tl;dr — whoa, eagles! 😮🦅)
The National Eagle Center wasn’t always this glamorous; its humble beginnings date to 1989, when a gang of eagle-loving volunteers founded EagleWatch, Inc. Today, the 15,000-square-foot education building is home to five live bald and golden eagle ambassadors (Angel, Columbia, Donald, Latsch, and Was’aka), all permanently injured, non-releasable birds.
The NEC offers daily meet-and-greets with its resident raptors, as well as 45-minute classroom programs that answer important questions like “Is a bald eagle really bald?” and “How can eagles stand on the ice without their feet freezing?”
The Center has an observation deck equipped with telescopes to scan for nearby nests of wild eagles and a fun exhibition on eagles in pop culture. (Eagle obsessive Preston Cook amassed paintings, sculptures, textiles, toys, and 25,000 other objects over 50 years before donating the extraordinary collection to NEC.)
Now is a great time to visit, too. Each winter, golden eagles migrate from their nesting territory just south of the Arctic Circle in Canada to Bluff Country. The birds of prey stick around from late November through early March. For the most immersive experience, reserve a spot on one of NEC’s naturalist-led Golden Eagle Viewing field trips (BYO binoculars or scope), which ferry guests by coach to eagle “hot spots” in and around the Mississippi River Valley. Bundle up, ‘cause you’ll be outside all afternoon, scouting for eagles and learning everything you ever wanted to know about their habitat and behavior. Act fast though — the last field trip of the season is scheduled for Saturday, February 15, 2020, from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
National Eagle Center
50 Pembroke Ave., Wabasha, MN; 651-565-4989.