Visiting the National Eagle Center
One of the most incredible sights that can be seen along the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota is the migration of eagles. When temperatures begin to rise in late winter as the rivers and wetlands begin to open up, the eagles return to Minnesota from their winter homes in the southern United States. Between late February and the end of March, you have a great chance to view these amazing birds in Minnesota.
A couple of years ago, my kids and I were looking for something to do over spring break. Since we were staying in state for the week, we decided to head to Wabasha to visit the National Eagle Center to learn more about eagles and hopefully see some of these amazing birds in the wild.
The National Eagle Center is located along the shore of the Mississippi River. Windows cover the walls of the eastern, southern, and northern parts of the center, so you can watch for the eagles flying along the river or you can step outside and view them from an observation platform. Five rescued eagles, who can no longer fly due to injuries, live at the center as eagle ambassadors. They are beautiful to behold! While we were in the center, the eagles would begin their screeching calls every few minutes. They were reacting to wild eagles who were flying past the center outside. An eagle’s call is quite loud and definitely gets your attention!
Besides the eagle ambassadors, the National Eagle Center exhibits contain many hands-on displays that kids of all ages will enjoy. One display my kids really enjoyed challenged them to compare their hand strength to that of an eagle’s talon strength by gripping a lever. There was also a replica of an eagle’s nest, which you can walk into and learn about a baby eagle’s stages of growth. You can also study feathers under a microscope and learn how their design helps a bird fly.
Our favorite part of visiting the National Eagle Center was attending their live eagle program. Held three times a day, a naturalist will educate you on eagle behavior and natural history using an eagle ambassador and many other artifacts. I also enjoyed hearing about the rescue stories of the eagles and learning about their personalities. The highlight of the program comes at the end of the presentation when the naturalist feeds the eagle a big chunk of fish, which is an incredible sight to see!
The National Eagle Center hosts several special events throughout the year. Here’s a few that really stand out.
- Soar with the Eagles– weekends in March. Special programs include flying bird shows, live animals, arts & crafts, exotic birds, insects and more!
- Fishing for Eagles– take the kids fishing on the National Eagle Center’s dock. Learn about lead-free tackle. Equipment provided and its free with paid admission to the center.
- Bald Eagle Days– celebrate the recovery of eagles in this event held in June.
- Eagles Honoring Veterans– free admission for veterans and active-duty service members on Veterans Day and the week following it in November.
- Eagle Viewing Field Trips– Join a naturalist and head out into the field to view eagles in the wild. Pre-registration is required.
Visiting the National Eagle Center
- Winter Hours: Sunday through Thursday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM, Friday-Saturday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. Closed on Tuesday.
- Location: 50 Pembroke Avenue, Wabasha.
- Cost: Adults (18 – 61): $8, Seniors (62+): $7, Veterans: $7, Youth (4 – 17): $6, Children (3 & Under): FREE, NEC MEMBERS: FREE.
Our day did not end at the National Eagle Center. Wabasha is a great river town! We also visited the natural playground at Rotary Beach Park, explored the cool shops in Wabasha’s historic downtown, and drove a few miles down the road to Kellog to play mini-golf and visit Lark Toys. Check out these links and start planning a visit to Wabasha today!