Residents wanting to get an upclose look at bald and golden eagles don’t have to venture to the Pacific Northwest or Alaska.
Just a five-hour car ride from Northwest Indiana is the small town of Wabasha, Minnesota, which is home to the National Eagle Center, an interpretive center located on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Home to non-releasable bald and golden eagles, the center allows visitors to experience these creatures up close.
“The National Eagle Center presents a truly unique visitor experience, with the opportunity to come virtually nose-to-beak with bald and golden eagles right where they live,” said Ed Hahn, marketing manager for the center.
The Upper Mississippi River Valley is home to hundreds of bald eagles, which often build their nests in tall trees along the river valley. According to the center, hundreds more bald eagles arrive in the winter months.
“Winter is the slowest time for visitorship due to weather and schools being in session, but the winter months in Wabasha are when nature’s bald eagle show is at its absolute best,” Hahn said.
Wabasha is a natural winter congregation spot along the river, with hundreds of bald eagles from northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada wintering right outside the facility December through March, he said.
“This is the best time of the year to visit for wild bald eagle viewing and photography opportunities,” Hahn said.
The 15,000-square-foot interpretive center allows visitors to enjoy views of the wild eagles, as well as meet its resident Eagle Ambassadors, who typically were found injured, but were unable to be released into the wild even after rehabilitation.
Known for its programs that provide eagle information to all age groups, the National Eagle Center also invites audience participation for kids and photo opportunities when staff members feed the eagles lunch in front of the audience.
The facility houses two floors of interactive exhibits that include hands-on demonstrations, video programs and classroom programs, Hahn said.
Through April, the center also hosts a series of field trips for visitors to view bald and golden eagles in the wild.
“Our eagle experts lead bus tours in and around the Upper Mississippi River Valley, with stops at bald and golden eagle viewing hot spots,” Hahn said. “These are four-hour trips where visitors see wild eagles, and learn about the native wildlife and natural history of the region.”
Each trip has 42 seats available and visitors may complete registration online or over the phone.
In the spring, the facility also hosts its annual SOAR with the Eagles festival weekends in March. The festival coincides with spring migration and features special presentations and exhibits each weekend, including flying bird shows, exotic animal exhibitions, and arts and crafts.
Details of the event are available online starting in January.
The National Eagle Center is located at 50 Pembroke Ave., Wabasha. For more information, call (651) 565-4989 or go to nationaleaglecenter.org.