One of Minnesota ’s most impressive migrations begins in mid-October when tundra swans swoop down from above the Arctic Circle and take a month-long break on the Mississippi before continuing to their East Coast wintering grounds.
In good years this shallow backwater area, stretching four miles between the hamlets of Weaver and Minneiska, has seen as many as 12,000 swans in a single day: The peak always comes within a few days of November 10.
The best viewing spot is at the top of the hill next to St. Mary’s Cemetery, 1.75 miles south of Weaver—look for the bald eagle nest here. Another good spot is the observation deck at Weaver Landing. Occasionally you might also spot them from downtown Minneiska.
Because of the heavy traffic, stopping along U.S. Highway 61 to take a look is a bad idea. The best swan-watching is actually across the river in Alma, Wisconsin (www.almaswanwatch.org ), where volunteers are available daily to answer questions.
Drive along County Highway 84 (which joins U.S. 61 about 1.5 miles north of Weaver), and you’ll pass 1,000 acres of rolling sand dunes, some as high as 30 feet. Most are protected as the Kellogg-Weaver Dunes Scientific and Natural Area on land owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy (800/628-6860, www.nature.org ).