If you can carve out some time this week to drive to Wabasha and visit the National Eagle Center, you will not be disappointed.
We drove down last Sunday for the "Soar With The Eagles" program, which also is this weekend, March 9-10, and thoroughly enjoyed touring the facility and sitting in on the educational sessions. We listened to several volunteers talk about eagles and other birds of prey. Plus, we got up close to five "resident" eagles—four bald and one golden—who were brought here to heal and now call Wabasha "home."
The center is located on the riverfront at the end of Pembroke Avenue. It offers interactive exhibits, classes and displays on eagles. I enjoyed the volunteer talk about Was'aka, a six-year-old male bald eagle. He came from Florida and had a tumor removed that over his left eye. Was'aka is blind and unable to hunt. So he spends his days now helping teach visitors about the bald eagle's comeback.
Not only did we see eagles inside the center, we saw a number of them outside, soaring across the Mississippi River. Bald eagles thrive in the Wabasha area. The river does not freeze over here in the wintertime, making it a prime spot for watering migratory birds. Plus, they nest in the wildlife area known as the Nelson Bottoms located directly across from the city of Wabasha. During the late fall, winter and early spring, hundreds of visitors watch them soar and dive for fish in the open water from the foot of Lake Pepin to the south of Wabasha.
Eagles are a common sight, especially in Minnesota, too. The state ranks second in numbers of bald eagles in the U.S. Alaska ranks first.
At the center, I also enjoyed the displays that shared historical information about the city and the Native Americans who lived here prior to European settlement.
The city of Wabasha was named in honor of Chief Wapashaw, an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation. This part of the river valley was prime camping ground for the Sioux. Wapashaw had a nephew, Augustin Rocque (his sister's son), who was the first white settler in this area.
The city was named in 1843 in honor of the chief. Historical information says the occasion was marked by those in attendance by digging a hole in the ground on the levee (between Alleghany and Pembroke streets) and placing in it a bottle containing a written account of the day's event. A post was set in the hole and a board was nailed to it with the name "Wabashaw." By 1868, mapmakers and published statutes had dropped the "w" at the end of the city's name.
Enjoy the warmer weather this weekend and make the trip to Wabasha.
For more information, check out the center's website, www.nationaleaglecenter.org/, or call (651) 565-4989, or (877)-332-4537.