Have you ever seen the intricate details of an eagle's feathers or watch an eagle dive for lunch? It's fascinating to see a bald eagle up close through a spotting scope, and amazing to have dozens to watch. This special experience is available all winter along parts of the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota where the water doesn't freeze. Migrating and resident eagles gather here to fish the open water.
Depending on how much of the river is free of ice, and whether the fall or spring migrations are taking place, more than a hundred eagles might be spotted at some locations, especially along a 5-mile stretch of the river between Wabasha and the tiny village of Reads Landing. Three scenic pullouts along Highway 61 near Reads Landing offer good viewing.
In Wabasha, the National Eagle Center, in a beautiful, modern facility right on the river, offers viewing through spotting scopes and binoculars on a deck along the river, or on cold days, just inside through floor-to-ceiling windows. On a typical winter day, dozens of eagles perch in trees along the river or sit on the ice. The spotting scopes provide incredible, up-close views of these magnificent birds. The scopes are available November through mid-March, when the spring eagle migration peaks. Inside, the center has exhibits all about eagles and some resident eagles you can observe right in front of you in a viewing area.
Another good place for eagle watching is at Colvill Park on the south side of Red Wing, just off Hwy. 61. In February, Eagle Spot Weekends here offer spotting scopes and binoculars; experienced volunteers are available to answer questions about eagles. For more information, check with the Red Wing Visitors Bureau.