Is that a Golden Eagle?

This morning we left Reads landing after finally completing the daunting task of paddling across a windy Lake Pepin (23 miles long) last night.  A few miles after launching we paddled up to the dock at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.  After hearing about our trip the NEC contacted us to visit the Center on our way down the river.  The NEC is located right on the Mississippi in a beautiful building designed to educate groups of all ages about our Nation’s bird, the Bald Eagle. 

After watching Eagles perched near the river through out our whole trip, we were ecstatic to finally have a chance to learn more about them.  Eileen and Scott from the NEC spent over an hour sharing their knowledge about Eagles with us. 

We learned:

  • Eagles are a top predator dominating their food chain
  • Eagles can see a rabbit running on the ground from 3 miles above
  • Adult Eagles weigh 8-10 pounds and have a wing span of over 6 feet in length
  • Juvenile Bald Eagles are larger than their parents because of “training wheels” or added feathers that help them learn to fly
  • Juvenile Bald Eagles will not have their full white head and tail feathers until they are 5 years old and only 20-30% of them will survive until adulthood

Question:  Eagles are raptors.  What are raptors?  What other raptors live near you? 

We also learned Eagles were recently removed from the endangered species list in 2007.  Their populations plummeted due to a chemical in the 1940’s and 1950’s. 

Question:  What was this chemical called?  Why did this chemical cause populations to decrease to near extinctions?

Most importantly Scott was able to end the debate amongst us paddlers about Golden Eagles.  Several members of the group swear they saw a Golden Eagle flying over the River but others argued it was only a juvenile Bald Eagle.  Scott told the group Golden Eagles don’t eat fish and only winter in Minnesota, confirming what we saw was most likely a juvenile Bald Eagle and not a Golden Eagle.  Glad to have that debate settled. 

Activity: Find and compare a picture of a juvenile Bald Eagle and a Golden Eagle.  What similarities and differences do they have in appearances?     

After our great visit at the National Eagle Center we took off with high hopes to put in some good miles the rest of the day.  Immediately after leaving the dock a strong head wind hit our boats with extreme force.  We spent the rest of the day battling the strong winds between 20-30 mph causing several 4 foot swells testing our paddling skills.  Luckily, the stretch between the National Eagle Center and the Alma Dam was scattered with islands that we could use as shelter from the wind between large paddling stretches.  The 6 miles from the Eagle Center to our campsite in Alma took us about 5 hours to paddle (we normally paddle 15-20 miles in that time).  When we finally reached  the 4th Lock and Dam we were exhausted and warn out from the wind but felt accomplished with completing the challenging stretch of river.  Check out the video below to see what we were paddling against!  

Question:  What controls wind speeds and direction?  When was a time you noticed strong winds? 

We completed Dam number 4 in Alma.  Luckily after the dam we were blessed with some beachy islands near by providing a great place to camp. And to improve the evening even more we ran into some of our other river friends, Max and Lucas, who are also paddling the whole river!               

Tomorrow could be another windy day so we're all off to bed early in hopes of leaving at 4am to avoid the strong winds!  Send good weather vibes our way!



Wild River Academy

Wild River Academy, 2751 Hennepin Ave S #254, Minneapolis, MN, 55408, United States

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