Saturday, January 21, 2012

Visiting the Eagle Center

Last Sunday, when the weather was much warmer than the temperatures shown in my previous blog entry, my older daughter and I decided to take a trip to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. We traveled there primarily on the east side of the river, using Wisconsin Highway 35. Wabasha is about 75 miles down river from where I live in Saint Paul.

As one drives down the river, there one finds Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is an area of the Mississippi River in which it become very, very wide. This change is due to the Wisconsin River entering the Mississippi. The Wisconsin River moves faster than the Mississippi and when the water hits together, silt is dropped. Over the centuries this has created an under-river dam which forces water back on the Mississippi. Rather than become deeper, the channel becomes much, much wider. Here is one view of Lake Pepin from the Wisconsin side.

The river is frozen enough here, even in a somewhat warm winter, that it supports fish houses -- couldn't get a good picture. There were a number of pick-up trucks parked in the same area where I stopped. People walked out to the fish houses-- the ice is not thick enough to support driving a vehicle on the ice.

Above is a picture I took later in the day of Lake Pepin from the Minnesota side of the river.

We arrived in Wabasha about 11 AM so our first stop was for a bite to eat at a charming coffee shop.

The National Eagle Center is located in Wabasha because this is an area where the river stays open over the winter (see above). Thus, eagles can hunt for food all winter. This is also the start of a protected wild-life area on the Mississippi River so the eagles are quite free of predators--  particularly the human kind! There is also plenty of wood land that can provide shelter during winter days.

The National Eagle Center is a private organization. It is not a federally or state supported facility. Income comes from admission fees, donations, and grants.

One feature of the Center are displays about how eagles have been an icon for nations for a very long time. This goes back at least to Roman times. We see this icon carried on in flags from Europe.
We see this icon than coming along to the United States with European settlers where it met with the respect that the American Indians have for the eagle, so it should not be a surprise it becomes a symbol for our country.

One story I had never heard before was about Old Abe. Old Abe was sent to the Civil War by Dan McCann, after Mr. McCann had been refused for military service.
As the poster shows, Old Abe went into many Civil War battles. After the Civil War he lived at the Wisconsin Capitol building, but was displayed in Philadelphia during the Centennial Exposition. Unfortunately, he died in 1881 when a fire swept through the Wisconsin Capitol.

Our 101st Airborne Division owes its heritage to the 8th Wisconsin Regiment. That is why this Division is known as the Screaming Eagles.

The Center has 5 resident eagles, all there because they have some injury that makes it impossible now for them to survive independently in the wild. One is Golden Eagle -- the type of eagle found in our western states.

The others are bald headed eagles. We think of the word, bald, as meaning no hair, but it is also a very old word for the color white. Now that helps to make sense about why these are called bald eagles. Below is a video showing a bit of the eagle, Columbia. She was hit by a car along a Wisconsin road where she was feeding on a deer carcass. When she was sent to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, it was found she also had some lead poisoning. Getting injured actually saved Columbia's life, for she had only an early case of lead poisoning and could be treated.

The audio on the video is incidental and not really part of any message. I included this video primarily so all can assured these are really live eagles and not simply a stuffed bird!

I learned eagles are particularly vulnerable to lead because they have the capability of breaking down and digesting lead sinker or lead shot. The lead immediately moves into the blood stream at very high levels, causing death in a very short time.

Outside the Center is a statute commemorating Wapasha I and Wapasha II. These were highly respected American Indian chiefs in this area. Wapasha II granted permission for European and Americans to settle in the area now called Wabasha. Wabasha was founded in 1830 and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, towns of the west bank of the Mississippi River.

We surely enjoyed our visit to the Eagle Center and recommend it for a visit.

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