June 1 - Oct 31 Thurs-Mon 11-4
Nov 1 - May 31 Thurs - Sun: 11-4
Located right on Main Street, Wings Over Alma offers an outdoor viewing deck overlooking the mighty Mississippi, equipped with spotting scopes and binoculars to view a variety of wildlife year-round. The Upper Mississippi National Wildlife & Fish Refuge was designated a Wetland of International Importance on June 1, 2009, making it the 27th US wetland to receive this designation and the 2nd in Wisconsin.
The Alma area hosts hundreds of bald eagles, with many active nests. Herons are abundant. Much of North America’s waterfowl population uses the Mississippi Flyway during migration, and half of the world’s canvasback ducks stop in the refuge. In addition to the migration of waterfowl, dozens of species of songbirds take advantage of this area with peak Spring Migration from mid-March to mid-May and peak Fall Migration from mid-October to the end of November.
During the Summer months, morning valley fog from the Buffalo River and Beef Slough creeps out onto the Mississippi River and adds a wonderful mystique to the landscape and waterways. Backroad driving offers beautiful views throughout the year but the Autumn Color, which peaks in October, makes the experience unforgettable. Sugar maple, aspen, birch, basswood, oak, walnut and hickory display vibrant colors on the bluffs surrounding the Mississippi River and the many valleys of scenic Buffalo County.
Winter reveals interesting ice and snow patterns on the frozen river, along with occasional hoarfrost and active Bald Eagles. During the coldest parts of winter, the Mississippi River freezes over, except for areas immediately downstream from Lock & Dam #4. Bald Eagles congregate around this open pool of water to feed, and they can be seen directly from the viewing deck of Wings Over Alma Nature & Art Center.
1. Riding the Chippewa Valley Motorcar Association’s Mini-Train with a bird guide and a train historian through the Tiffany State Wildlife Area and the Chippewa River Bottoms during the Spring migration is an unforgettable experience! The excursion includes the train ride, a lunch with grilled brats, some of the best birding guides in the area, a history of the mini train, and local natives with knowledge of the Chippewa River and Tiffany Bottoms. This is the morning option with a $45 per person donation to Wings Over Alma.
2. For those who are mainly interested in the train ride and the wildlife area and river bottoms, the afternoon is a great option. If you have children that would enjoy the ride and trip, this is an ideal option. Again a history of the mini train, and local natives with knowledge of the Chippewa River and Tiffany Bottoms will be featured. A snack is served during the ride. This is the afternoon option with a $20/person donation.
These fundraising events for Wings Over Alma are a large portion of our annual income. Thank you for your support, and we hope you enjoy the ride!
DIRECTONS TO MINI TRAIN:
From Hwy 35, turn North onto Hwy 25 (intersection of Hwy 35 and 25 is just north of Nelson, WI). Travel North on Hwy 25 toward Durand, WI, for 12 miles. Crossing guards will mark parking and train boarding location.
Contact Wings Over Alma for more info: (608) 685-3303.
Tiffany Bottoms State Wildlife Area
Great River Road Birding
The organization Bird City Wisconsin supports communities in their efforts to protect and manage green space, educate their citizens, build and erect nesting structures, landscape with native plants, reduce threats to birds like collisions and outdoor cats, and generally make urban areas both friendlier for birds and places where people want to live and work.
Alma, Wisconsin, first received its Bird City status in 2017. It has applied and been awarded this status every year since. For more about this process and Alma's efforts, click here.
Long before officially becoming a Bird City, Alma has been loving and assisting its avian citizens. In 1994, Dairyland Power's Peregerine Falcon Restoration Program, working with Bob Anderson of the Raptor Resource Project, erected its first falcon nesting box. In 1997, the first pair of breeding peregrine falcons moved in, raising 3 chicks. The box was remodeled in 1991 to provide more perch space. Dairyland Power decommissioned & demolished one of its two power plants in Alma in 2017 and the smokestack associated with this plant in 2018. However, before demolition they moved the falcon nest box to the remaining smokestack, keeping this project alive with the continued protection of the peregrine falcon. Not only do the falcons use the nest box, they have successfully moved into the neighboring bluff returning to a natural nesting habitat.
In addition to many year-round efforts, Alma celebrates World Migratory Bird Day each year in the month of May with special speakers and presentations at Wings Over Alma, as well as offering the annual Birding By Mini Train event.
You may have noticed that several of your favorite birds are no longer at your feeders. Orioles, Grosbeaks, Wrens, Hummingbirds, and others have flown south to their winter habitats, some as far as Central America. In Alma, WI, you will likely see White Pelicans as they migrate and maybe some Tundra Swans near the Beef Slough area. Trumpeter Swans are rare but also in our locale, some of whom stay through the winter. A local once said that he saw egrets so thick that the trees along some back waters were pure white. Other large travelers include Sandhill Cranes, Canadian Geese, and many varieties of ducks. And you might think all birds are heading south, but the migration patterns of loons has changed. They have been found moving west toward Montana. Temperature, air current, food supply, and cover all play a role in a bird’s flight pattern.
Tundra Swans once gathered by the thousands at Reick’s Lake Park in Alma, WI, and up the Buffalo River to Tell Lake along Hwy 37. We can no longer boast such numbers due their food source no longer being prevalent in our area.
Tundra swans feed on arrowhead root bulbs (duck potato), wild celery and sago pondweed. Over the years, with up to 5000 swans, they over harvested those plants. Additionally, an invasive marsh grass took over Reick’s Lake.
Today, some Tundra Swans can still be spotted. Each year varies. During the Fall of 2019, about 20 swans at a time were spotted on Reick’s Lake.
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY:
Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Surveys
Hwy 35 Viewing Guide (WI)
Hwy 61 Viewing Guide (MN)
It’s impressive to see these amazing raptors in the wild and there are many spots in Alma, WI, for viewing Bald Eagles. Wings Over Alma offers viewing from its deck and from the comfort of inside the Center itself. Wintering Bald Eagles arrive in mid-December and stay through mid-March, depending on the weather. Don’t miss the opportunity to view these wintering Bald Eagles feeding in the open water below Lock & Dam #4.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service states that the numbers of eagles wintering along the Upper Mississippi River now rival those of Alaska’s Chilkat River, which boasts the world’s largest wintering bald eagle population. “We have estimated that as many as 4,000 eagles winter along the Upper Mississippi,” says FWS. The disadvantage is they are spread throughout a very large area. Alma’s advantage is they gather right in our town!
Migratory Bird Program
The Migratory Bird Program is responsible for maintaining healthy migratory bird populations for the benefit of the American people
Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project, Dairyland Power Cooperative
Falcon nesting box installed 450 feet up the stack of the Alma Generating Plant in 1994
Freshwater Mussels of the Upper Mississippi River
Nearly 300 species of mussels inhabit freshwater rivers and lakes in North America. This is the richest diversity of mussels found in the world. Their lustrous pearl-like interiors have made them valuable in the cultured pearl and jewelry industries.
Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail
Mapped auto trail reaching throughout the state of Wisconsin with full-color viewing guides and maps.
Wisconsin Wetlands Association
Established in 1969 to protect the state’s wetland resources through education, training, advocacy, and research on key issues that affect wetlands.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
240,000 acre refuge winding through 4 states for 261 miles provides a home for hundreds of species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and native plants
Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area
Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area is a small portion of the most extensive river delta in the Midwest and contains a representative portion of the larger Tiffany Bottoms floodplain forest
Big Swamp Wildlife Area
Owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, acquisition began on the property in 1956 with the goal of protecting winter pheasant cover for pheasants and has since grown to 844 acres in size
Merrick State Park
Owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, designated a park since 1919 when the land was donated.
Whitman Dam Wildlife Area
Established in 1965 from land donated to the state of Wisconsin for Merrick State Park in 1919
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Charged with the responsibility of managing the state’s wildlife, land, water and air resources in trust for all citizens
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife resources in their habitats
Mississippi Valley Conservancy
Conserving the diverse landscapes and natural areas of the Coulee Region of western Wisconsin for future generations.
USDA Forest Service
Responsible for management of National Forest lands and their resources
US Army Corps Of Engineers, St Paul District
Responsible for investigating, developing and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources
USACE, Mississippi River Lock & Dam #4
Located on Mississippi River mile 752.8 in Alma, Wisconsin