In the Alma area, the Tundra Swans will stop primarily at Big Lake on the Mississippi River just south of Nelson and north of Alma. They are best seennorth of Alma, across from Cedar Ridge Resort. You will need binoculars or a scope for this long-distance view. 

Another great viewing location outside of the area is Brownsville, MN. For more information, visit

The "swan experience" is very different from the days when swans were literally falling from the sky during the annual "swan fall". 

Although fewer in number, many find that their viewing and photo opportunities are more personalized. A photographer who visits every season indicated he had "taken their best pictures ever" because of the smaller population.


First Tundra Swans of the Season


Tundra Swans, Big Lake, Mississippi River

Tundra Swans, Tell Lake (2 Adults & 2 Juveniles)

Tundra Swans & Canada Geese, Tell Lake 

Tundra Swans, Tell Lake

Tell Lake

Tell Lake

Buffalo River
Rieck's Lake



While the migrating population of tundra swans stopping over in Alma, Wisconsin has dwindled in recent years, swans are still visible in both the summer and fall migrations. This smaller number of swans offers the photographers excellent photo ops. The viewing platform at Rieck's Lake Park is an excellent point to start your search for tundra swans.

Although more informal, driving Wisconsin Hwy 37 from Alma, Wisconsin along the Buffalo River is another opportunity to view swans. 

Tell Lake


Buffalo River & Tell Lake Viewing
Swans are visible in the open pools and drifting among the reeds and water grasses.  Directions:  Just north of Alma, Wisconsin turn right at Wisconsin Hwy 37. Tell Lake is at intersection with County Road II.

Mississippi River Viewing/Big Lake
Swans are visible on Big Lake/Mississippi River, this is a long distance viewing opportunity which requires binoculars.
Directions:  Across from Cedar Ridge Resort on Wisconsin State Hwy 35, 4 miles north of Alma. The owners of the resort have given permission for you to drive down to their dock area on the Mississippi but do not pull past the barricade. You can walk right to the river's edge but stay off all docks, they are closed for the season.

Mississippi River Viewing/Spring Lake
Swans are visible rafting on Spring Lake/Mississippi River, this is a medium distance viewing opportunity.
Directions: From Wisconsin State Highway 35, turn right on County Road OO (6 miles south of Alma, before Cochrane).  Follow this road to Buffalo City and the Mississippi River.  The road travels the banks of the Mississippi River, Spring Lake is on the south end.



As part of the Mississippi Flyway, the Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge is a perfect staging area for tundra swans. The backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River provide resting sites that are mostly undisturbed and an abundant food supply.

The Eastern Population of tundra swans migrates through the Upper Mississippi River Valley. They breed along the arctic coast of Canada from Hudson Bay west to northwestern Alaska and they migrate to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. According to the USGS, "scientists estimate that about 25% of the Eastern Population of tundra swans, including about half of all young produced, use the Upper Mississippi River during fall migration".

See these resources to learn more about tundra swans. If you live in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, don't forget to visit your local nature center.

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE FALL FLIGHT SURVEY -- Waterfowl Aerial Survey
WISCONSIN DNR -- Environmental Education For Kids -- Tundra Swans



Wings Over Alma
Nature & Art Center
110 N Main Street
P.O. Box 191
Alma, Wisconsin 54610

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