Spring is an incredible time to go birdwatching along the Mississippi River! Check out some of our favorite stops to watch the spring migration in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge is actually 240,000 acres and 261 miles long, running through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois and lies within the Mississippi Flyway, the migratory path for birds.
An excellent spot to visit is Lake Onalaska, just north of La Crosse, Wisconsin. The lake is actually a pool of the Mississippi River, and the river’s the widest spot. Bald eagles are frequent visitors, as are tundra swans, and If you’re lucky you’ll catch the migration of canvasback ducks – there have been reports of 75,000-100,000 of them using Lake Onalaska as a springtime staging area (approximately one third of their North American population).
Pikes Peak State Park
Another great stop in the Wildlife Refuge is Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa. Here you can make the trek up the 500 foot bluff for views of where the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers meet. You’ll find plenty of songbirds here – eastern bluebirds, warblers, catbirds, pileated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, but eagles and pelicans too. Be sure to explore the effigy mounds while you birdwatch.
National Eagle Center
The observation deck at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota is a great place to view eagles in the wild as they soar above the Mississippi. They even offer eagle viewing field trips that will take you to hotspots along and near the river. Inside the center are two floors of interactive exhibits where you can climb inside a nest and test your strength against our national bird’s. Be sure to stay for the daily demonstrations where you can meet bald and golden eagles face to face.
Barn Bluff is another beautiful spot to see eagles, located in Red Wing, Minnesota. If you make the 340-foot climb up to the top of the bluff, you’ll see them soaring over the river and bluffs, along with turkey vultures and pelicans too. Barn Bluff is a hotspot for nature photography too, so bring your camera!