Bald Eagles in northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Trail
Minnesotans enjoy the largest population of bald eagles in the 48 contiguous states except for Florida. There are more than 650 nesting pairs, and the numbers continue to climb by about 30 to 40 pairs per year. This is in contrast to only about 40 pairs in 1963.
If you wish to see eagles in the summer it involves viewing them during the nesting season when they are more sensitive to disturbance. Eagles typically build their nests at the top of tall while or red pines or in tall aspen or cottonwood trees along the shorelines of lakes and rivers. On lakes heavily used by boats, it is usually acceptable to view the eagles from a boat at a distance because the eagles are accustomed to boating activity. Do not go ashore near the nesting tree. Such visits can disturb the eagles while they are incubating eggs or caring for young. Eagles have become increasingly visible in summer during the recent years. A pair of eagles nest in Bear Head Lake State Park north of Tower and Soudan. Lakeshore nests are fairly common at many of the larger lakes on the Iron Trail. Lake Vermilion is known for its nesting eagles. Eagles and other wildlife can be viewed on the Lake Vermilion Wildlife Tours or the Lake Vermilion Mailboat Tours. The Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, which connects the North Shore and Silver bay to Hoyt Lakes on the Iron Trail in only one hour, is a great place for the possibility of seeing a bald eagle. Bald eagle sightings have been more common on Highway 169 between Virginia and Hibbing, Highway 53 north between Eveleth and Cotton, and Highway 169 north from Virginia to Tower. The best way to enjoy eagles is at a distance with binoculars or a spotting scope.
Eagles in Winter
The best time to look for bald eagles is from October through March. As winter approaches, eagles concentrate along the few remaining places where the lakes or rivers stay open during the winter. Watch for eagles perched in trees along rivers. You will need a spotting scope or binoculars. Some will be all brown and quite hard to see without a spotting scope. Those are immature eagles that lack white heads and tails. Eagles do not get their white head and tails until their fourth year.
Adult bald eagles are easier to see because their white heads stand out against the brown background of the trees. By mid morning the eagles make frequent flights over the water to catch fish or to attempt to catch the mallards, goldeneyes and common mergansers that are wintering there. Bear Head Lake State Park and the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway are popular winter eagle viewing possibilities.
We invite you to enjoy our national treasure, the bald eagle as you discover why the Iron Trail is “A Great Way to Getaway!”