Best Kept Secret – The National Eagle Center, Wabasha

It kind of boggles my mind that we don’t hear more about The National Eagle Center.

A non-profit organization dedicated to the study sustaining of the Upper Midwest Eagle population, the NEC sits in a beautiful facility right on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha.

The Upper Mississippi is home to hundreds of both bald and golden eagles, and that population swells in the winter months because the river does not freeze over, allowing for an easy food source during the toughest time of the year for the majestic birds.

Visitors to the National Eagle Center can observe the birds in their natural habitat from the observation platform at the facility or take a guided field trip through the river bluff area. They can attend one of three daily programs featuring one of the eight “Eagle Ambassadors” who are permanent residents of the NEC (each has a medical condition that will not allow them to live in the wild). You can learn about eagles survival and hunting skills; their nesting behaviors and their biology; the connections of eagles and people through history. Or you can just pick up a few fun facts about them.

Why we don’t hear more about the NEC, and why it isn’t far more top-of-mind to all Minnesotans is a real mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because the best time to observe eagles is during the winter. Perhaps its location in Wabasha is too far off the beaten path for most people (I don’t buy that idea for a second, by the way). Maybe as a society we’re still getting used to the idea that we can even see an eagle. As a kid, I never saw eagles in the wild, and now I’ll see one on a weekly basis at least. They’re off the endangered species list and are thriving in Southern Minnesota.

You need to check this place out. Eagles are more than just a symbol of our country. They are top-of-the-food-chain animals, from whom we can learn much about, strength, grace and survival. Frankly, the National Eagle Center is more than a SoMinn gem, it’s a national treasure. Go check it out.

-Rich Larson