Tag Archives: Vacation

National Eagle Center

Warning: this is a long post!

On Friday, we left for Wabasha, Minnesota.  It is about a 2-1/2 hour drive Southeast from my place.  I’ve never been there before.  According to the Chamber of Commerce, Wabasha is the oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River and has been occupied continuously since 1826. U.S. Government records and “The 2nd Treaty of Prairie du Chien” (1830) conclusively establish Wabasha to be the oldest town in Minnesota, established 1830. The city is named in honor of an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation, Chief Wa-pa-shaw.  Wabasha’s “claim to fame” is that the Grumpy Old Men films were filmed there. Everywhere you look, it is either the eagles or Grumpy Old Men, LOL.

Wabasha is also home to the National Eagle Center www.nationaleaglecenter.org.  Southeastern Minnesota has one of the highest populations of Bald Eagles in the country, next to Alaska.  They winter on the Mighty Mississippi and Lake Pepin between Red Wing and Wabasha-Kellogg .  In the winter you find them in the hundreds on Lake Pepin, as it is open water.  But during the Spring and Summer, they are also plentiful. 

After a few stops here and there, we arrived in Wabasha around 12:30.  I had made reservations at a local motel, the “cheapest place in town”.  UGH.  I don’t know how many times in the last three months “you get what you pay for” has haunted me.  I have not stayed in a “motel” for quite some time.  And in a town the size of 2,250, apparently no one mans the motel at night.  We were the only guests and let me tell you, it was spooky.  Never again.  I was thankful that it was only one night.  Next time we will be stepping it up a bit.

Our plans were to walk around town for a bit, then head over the the National Eagle Center.  They had “shows” at 11, 1, and 3.  We were going to make the 3:00 show.  We headed downtown and what a pretty site it was.  We found a park at the end of the block.  We saw what we think were a pair of Cooper’s Hawks, some American Robins, and a couple of eagles flying down the river. 

Flowering tree at the park.
Bank Building built in the 19th century

The architecture and the history of the town was fantastic.  However, very sad, as a lot of the shops were closed down, due to the economy :( 

Downtown Wabasha from the West

There wasn’t a lot of shopping to do so we headed to the eagle center.  What an amazing experience.  I am so glad we went.  There was a ton of information around the center on the eagles of North America.   Some of it good, some of it very sad :(  But they are learning about them every day and teaching the public through the center and the classes they offer there.

National Eagle Center

This contraption had you squeezing the grips to see how strong you are.  My sidekick got 50 psi, me 40.  It wasn’t a good day, LOL.  The talons of the eagle are very powerful, up to 400 psi!

We learned that eagles can see up to 2-3 miles.  You could put your head in this makeshift eagle and see what they see, it was very cool.  Also learned that they are very clean animals and even shoot their poop out of the nest up to 6 feet!  LOL!  We cracked up!

We were saddened to discover the lead poisoning issue, though.  Very sad.  It only takes a quarter-sized piece of led to kill an eagle.

There are five resident eagles at the center. Residents due to some ailment or another, that keeps them from making it in the wild.

There is Donald, the lone Golden Eagle. He was my favorite. What a brilliant, gorgeous bird. Donald is from California and had his wing broken when he was hit by a vehicle. He is unable to sustain flight, thus his residency at the eagle center.


Harriet was a hoot.  Harriet is the oldest of the eagles at the center, 30 years!  She was also hit by a car and part of her wing had to be amputated :(  So she is unable to fly as well.   Her feathers stick up like a mohawk, they say from part of the concussion she received in her accident.  She has been seen on Leno and other talk shows.  She is also the eagle featured on the Minnesota veteran’s licence plates.  Harriet was part of the show we attended, and they fed her turkey and fish.  Apparently, they are spoiled at the center :)  Oh, and the 30 years.  Eagles in the wild usually live up to 20-25 years.  In captivity, that number is doubled!

Then there is Angel.  Angel was found on the ground with a broken wing as a fledgling.  She was surviving on fish from nearby heron’s nests.  The musculature of the wing was damaged so much that she also cannot fly.  She is the most vocal of the bunch.  When she sees a wild eagle fly by through the window, she vocalizes her pleasure.  The eagles are tethered at all times for their own safety.  However, they get a lot of outside time by the river and a couple of them have even caught fish in the river while tethered!

My sidekick got her picture taken with Angel.

Next is Wasaka, the other male in the bunch next to Donald.  Was’aka was discovered as a juvenile with a tumor on his eye.  Surgery removed the tumor, but Was’aka remains blind in the left eye and  is unable to hunt for himself.  He seemed very, very sad :(

And last, but definitely not least, is Columbia.  Columbia was feasting on a deer carcass on the side of the road in California and was hit by a van.  Her wing was broken and fixed, but she is still unable to fly.  The accident, however, saved her life.  For when they took blood tests they discovered lead poisoning, and she was treated for it and got better.  She was a card.  She was also one that was fed in the show and turned up her nose at some offerings until the manager hand-fed her, LOL.


The show was very informative and fun.  We left the show feeling a bit more knowledgeable about my favorite bird.  We headed to the giftshop and had someone take our picture, albeit with my iphone.  It was a bit windy up on the balcony along the river!

We headed out and walked around outside, this is my sidekick with Wa-pa-shaw.

We were hungry, so we headed to the bar and grill made famous from “Grumpy Old Men”, Slippery’s.  The food was pretty good and I got a coupon at the motel, so even better.  We left the restaurant, and there wasn’t much else to do so we headed around town.  Causing trouble, LOL, and taking pictures.

The bridge that separates Minnesota from Wisconsin.  Of course we drove over it, and wouldn’t you know there was a wildlife refuge on the other side.  Right up our alley.  We couldn’t see any trails, though, so turned around.  Saw a few eagles flying here and there.

These guys were a hoot.  In the middle of town, in the middle of nowhere near a pond.  A bunch of geese.  I am thinking snow geese?  Not sure at all.  I can find these first ones, but the others I cannot find in my Audubon guide.  I am told they are here all the time wandering and meandering about.

I stopped at this old Episcopal church that was built in 1901, and I loved the rod-iron fence :)

We headed back to the motel and got our jammies on, I downloaded my first day’s photos on the laptop, she played on Facebook, and we fell asleep.  Albeit it wasn’t a very sound sleep for me, being the only ones in the motel I was a bit scared. 

We got up early in the morning and headed for breakfast.  I always love the little cafe’s in small towns, the food is always so good.  We had plans to drive a couple miles further south to Kellogg before we headed back up north and home.  Kellogg is home to the Lark Toy Store.  What a fun little shop it turned out to be.  They had old toys on display, along with new toys to buy and a cool old camera collection.  Also a carousel and in the back yard, 3 llamas.  They were funny!   And oh my gosh, for the fudge.  I bought 3 large pieces of fudge and it cost me $9.  Chocolate for my sidekick, Salted Nut Roll fudge for my dad and Maplenut fudge for my mom.

The weather was not cooperating, it was chilly and starting to rain.  We had a 2-1/2 hour drive home and I wanted to make a couple stops.  I had seen a few spots on the way down that I wanted to photograph.  Typical :)

This is Lake Pepin, outside of Wabasha and before you hit Lake City.  Now why they call it Lake Pepin I don’t know, because it is also the Mississippi River.  Wider near these spots, but still the Mississippi.  The water down there is so much bluer than up here on the Mississippi.  I am assuming because there aren’t as many people?  I got home and my sidekick noticed a bald eagle sitting in one of the trees on the right of the photo.  It looks like an ant, you can barely see it.


This was a spot in Reid’s Landing, I don’t know quite what this is.  Not quite a barge, not quite a ship.  But there were people onboard working.  It was pretty cool, I thought.

We headed up further north and came into Lake City.  I would love to come back here and spend a weekend.  What a quaint little town and lovely marina.

Further north brought us to Redwing, Minnesota.  Redwing is a HUGE tourist town in the fall.  It is a beautiful little town on the river.  I hadn’t been there in years.  Nature was calling to both of us and I turned off the main highway down toward the river.  I found a park, what are the odds, LOL.  Also right on the railroad tracks and the old depot.  We entered the depot, “did our business”, and headed to the park.  They were giving river cruises; however the weather was really crappy and I really didnt want to waste my money on a crappy cruise.  Another time.

So that was it, we headed out because it really started raining and we had to get home.  We had grocery shopping to do and Easter to get ready for.  I really didn’t want to drive home in the rain, but didn’t have the choice.  And oh, the places I wanted to stop.  Barns, old farms and stops on the river.  All needing to be saved for another time.

Hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did!  Have a great week, everyone!