WABASHA — In the mid-1970s, the people of Wabasha took note that visitors seemed to pop up each winter to scan the treetops along the Mississippi River.
The goal for those visitors: spot a rare and endangered bald eagle.
“What happened is people would show up on weekends looking for eagles,” said Jerry Arens, who moved to Wabasha in 1980, then joined a group called Eagle Watch.
Mary Rivers had founded the group a few years earlier, and was one of the original members to realize that with eagles coming to Wabasha, the town could capitalize on it.
“Where the (National Eagle Center) is built is a natural heavy current,” Arens said. “It very infrequently freezes over. Consequently, you have open water in front of the Eagle Center that is a fishing opportunity for the eagles.”