How the National Eagle Center took flight in Wabasha

WABASHA, MN. — It started on an old deck with volunteers, a guest book, a couple of sets of binoculars and two viewing scopes.

That’s the way founding member Mary Rivers remembers the fledgling EagleWatch, an organization born in 1989 that is now the National Eagle Center.

“I was with my first husband in Wabasha for 21 years, where we raised two daughters,” recalled Rivers, who lives in Eagan. “We would hike summer and winter along the Chippewa River bottoms and the fish and wildlife refuge and we were amazed at all the eagles we saw. When we went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting, I volunteered for the riverfront committee and thought about what was unique about our community. Having grown up when there were very few eagles around and they were thought to be going extinct, it dawned on me what the Audubon Society of the Twin Cities knew before we did — that Wabasha and Read’s Landing (five miles north of Wabasha) were prime wintering habitat for bald eagles. Why weren’t we telling people about it? How could we share this resource and educate people about our national bird?”