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Passport to the River Valley: National Eagle Center

Posted at: 08/17/2011 9:16 AM

(ABC 6 NEWS) - The National Eagle Center sits along the banks of the Mississippi River in Wabasha. A beautiful setting that offers a one of a kind experience.

It gives visitors the chance to see bald eagles up close and personal. "They're not looking at them through a cage. They're not looking at them through bars. Even in the main viewing room, you're only a couple feet away from them," says Executive Director Jeff Worrell.

Gene Witte of St. Charles, Missouri had his own up close and personal moment. "You look at the bird and the bird is kind of like, 'Who in the hell are you?' Pardon me," laughs Witte.

The center is home to 5 eagles, all of which have been injured and are unable to care for themselves in the wild. In return, the country's national symbols are used as educational tools.
    
This summer, the center is also letting the public borrow fishing gear and fish for the eagles for free. "They catch the fish here on the river and then we ask for them to donate those fish back to the Eagle Center for feeding the eagles," says Alison Springer of the National Eagle Center.

Just a few decades ago, none of this would have been possible. In 1963 there was only 1 nesting pair of eagles in Minnesota. Last summer, it was projected that there were nearly 2,500. "Who do you think was the most responsible? Oh, Fish & Wildlife or the Eagle Center or the Minnesota DNR, Audubon. These are typical answers. When the truth is, it was you. It was your neighbor, it was me, it was just the citizens who had the will to get this job done," Worrell says.

The National Eagle Center allows all combat veterans free access to the facility.

For more information visit their website: http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/