For all the many great things that Decorah has to offer, perhaps none have done more to put the town on the map than a few eagles.
For several years now, millions of people from all around the world have tuned into the Raptor Resource Project's eagle cams to follow, closely, the daily lives of a few examples of our national bird. From the excitement of eggs hatching to the sadness of death or disappearance, millions from all over the world, year after year, have learned about life - and death - simply from just watching and observing.
Just south of town a few miles, directly across from the Chuck Gipp Fish Hatchery, you can see the famous nest and camera way up in the tree.
It's right along a beautiful bike path and on a hot Saturday afternoon, there were a few folks enjoying the hatchery and meandering on the trail to see if they could catch a glimpse of the celebritieagles.
The grove of trees that is home to the eagles is along the bike path but also along a stream.
There is a corn field and other prairie pollinator habitat, too.
I wish I had a better camera to capture clearer looks of the nest, birds, and camera but I guess these will have to do. Hopefully you can get some better photos when you visit.
Notice, you can see the camera to the upper right of the nest.
While I do not believe I saw any adult eagles, I did see a juvenile eagle sitting on a branch a few feet from the nest. I presume that is one of the three eagles born this spring in the nest. Again, it's not a great photo of the bird but you can see that he is clearly a juvenile and lacks the distinctive brown body and white head of an adult.
The habitat is excellent for the eagles. I am sure there are ample critters for an eagle to nab both on land or in the water.
However, if an eagle is looking for something quick and easy...the newly renamed Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery is an absolute buffet of trout.
Obviously, the eagles aren't "shooting" but as the old saying goes, "it's like shooting fish in a barrel".
There are several rows with many pools of fish that are being raised up to eventually be released into streams throughout our state.
Some have nets over the top to presumably keep the fish from jumping out. I imagine that also makes it harder for an eagle to grab lunch, too.
There were some larger pools that, presumably, are where the more adult fish are put before being gathered up for placement in the wild.
I believe this was my first visit to a fish hatchery and I actually expected it to have greater security.
There really was no fence or gate - it was almost a park-like setting. There was even dispensers where you could buy feed - not unlike at a zoo - to feed the fish.
In several spots, there were benches and I even spotted a gazebo.
There was a picnic shelter and some sort of event was happening there. A number of cars parked were from out of state - some from nearby Wisconsin or Minnesota - but many from much further away.
I am certainly not a fish expert so I appreciate that they have lots of signs explaining what types of trout are grown here and how things work at the hatchery.
There's a spring with a small waterfall that feeds water to the hatchery and several people were enjoying this beautiful area on this hot Saturday.
They have also been doing some conservation work on the stream. I am always impressed by what engineers can do.
There are other buildings on the grounds utilized by the Department of Natural Resources employees. However, because it was a weekend, there weren't too many (any?) around.
Stopping to enjoy a fish hatchery may not be one of the first things that comes to mind for many, but it was both enjoyable and educational for me. It's always good to see where and how our tax dollars are being spent.
As my previous posts about Decorah note, there's a lot to see and you can add a visit to the fish hatchery to that list. If you are lucky, perhaps you'll even catch a glimpse of one of the world famous eagles, too!
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Winneshiek County or one of the other 98 counties. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.